Forget brain training – This simple exercise can work wonders for your memory

October 13, 2010 by  
Filed under At Home, Health

If you think the Internet is a lot of fluff and nonsense — or full of useless trivia — then this piece of information might change your mind. CBS News in Los Angeles featured an unusual exercise to improve mental health and acuity that has created positive results for learning disabled and autistic children as well as older Alzheimer’s victims and the rest of us whose memory can occasionally leave home and leave us wondering why we are standing in the middle of the spare room.

The exercise was introduced by pranic healing Master Koa Chok Sui’s book SuperBrain Yoga and taught by him personally on lecture tours. Prana is another word for Chi, the subtle life force energy that surrounds and permeates the body and the basis of Eastern medicine and practices such as Qi Gong and yoga.

If you still think that’s fluff then you will be surprised to learn it has been endorsed by doctors, a Yale neurobiologist, an occupational therapist, educators, and parents and has gone viral on the internet.. It is a simple routine, and useful for any kind of brain fog or dullness, even emotional instability, and might even make you laugh as well.

It can improve memory and focus, and it’s even made some a little smarter – memo to self, forward this on to the Houses of Parliament, and it seems to work for everyone regardless of mental condition (second reminder to self re the above).

Here’s how to do it
This exercise is suitable for any age but please monitor and respect your own personal level of fitness.

With your feet pointing straight ahead, spread them apart about shoulder width. Grab your right earlobe with the thumb and finger of your left hand. Cross over your left arm and do the same using your right hand on the left earlobe.

Then squat as fully as you can, breathing in. That’s a little counter intuitive, as well as making you feel ridiculous, but that’s apparently what you do.

The breathing needs to be synchronized with the squats, so breathe in as you squat and breathe out as you stand. The instruction is to do this on a loop for three minutes, though I suspect that most of us will start out with one minute and work up. On bad days it might even be 30 seconds, but you can apparently continue for as long as five minutes if you wish to — and your thighs can hold out.

You keep doing this every day until you can feel that mental fog drifting away and certainly you will be able see an improvement in your final sort!

How It Works
According to Los Angeles physician Dr. Eric Robins, the brain cells and neurons are energized with this simple exercise and he certainly has seen good results from his own patients. He gives the example of a youngster doing poorly in school who was given the exercise to do and went on to become an A student.

If you are wondering what the earlobes had to do with it than this explanation from Yale neurobiologist Dr. Eugenius Ang might help. The earlobes grabbed are acupuncture points that stimulate neural pathways in the brain. The brain’s hemispheres are in opposite sides of the earlobes and using opposite hands for pinching the earlobes may have something to do with the way our subtle energies are arranged.

Still too new age and fluffy for you? Well, Ang showed that the results from EEG readings after doing this exercise indicate the right and left hemispheres of the brain had become synchronized. EEG readings measure the neuron firings in the brain via electrodes on the scalp, and are used to determine brain wave normalcies and abnormalities.

Apparently this is the same effect that subliminal sound recordings (as in many new-age CDs) have attempted to do by producing subliminal sounds to the brain attached to audible sounds through a headset. Dr. Ang believes firmly that this exercise really does achieve the brain being actually lateralized, which is apparently an ideal hemispheric arrangement.

What’s more he performs the exercise daily, so if it’s good enough for Yale, then surely it’s worth giving it a try? If you do, I would love to hear how you have got on with it.

Juggling makes health sense

October 22, 2009 by  
Filed under Healthy Ageing, Mental Health


I wrote recently about how multi-tasking is actually less efficient than focusing on one thing, and I was delighted to learn of a different form of ‘juggling’ that can improve your health.

If you have any oranges handy, you might want to start using them to learn to juggle as an Oxford University study has shown that it leads to changes in the white matter of the brain. These are the bundles of long nerve fibres that conduct electrical signals between nerve cells and connect different parts of the brain together. What this means in practice is that there is improved connectivity in parts of the brain involved in making the movements necessary to catch the balls.

We tend to think of the brain as being static, or even beginning to degenerate, once we reach adulthood but this research shows that its structure is ripe for change and can condition its own wiring system to operate more efficiently.

You may not want to juggle, but what this shows is the importance in adults of learning a new task or skill. The volunteers in the study had never juggled before and they were given weekly training sessions and asked to practice 30 minutes every day. After six weeks of training changes were seen in the white matter in regions of the brain which are involved in reaching and grasping in the periphery of vision, so that seems to make a lot of sense.

Ability varied, but after the training they all could juggle three balls for at least two cascades and some could juggle five balls and perform other tricks. As someone who never managed to juggle more than two bean bags, and that in slow motion, I am impressed so head out and find a new hobby that shines up that white matter to a glowing halo, and it could be as simple as going for a walk or doing a crossword rather than juggling the family finances!