When it comes to memory, it’s a part of our brain called the hippocampus which acts like a USB stick to hold all of our short-term memories until they are moved over to our analogical hard drive for long-term storage. As we all age, it is the hippocampus which becomes vulnerable to a reduction in volume and thus destruction to our short-term memory.
Yoga has been at the heart of multiple studies looking at the relationship between this age-old form of movement and the strengthening of people’s memories.
Of the key findings, the first is that exercise increases blood flow and enhances the neural connection to the hippocampus. The aerobic exercise you receive in our Power and Moderate classes specifically works to not only to maintain but build hippocampus volume.
Studies also found that grey matter in the brain increases with meditation and yoga. Grey matter houses all of your synaptic connections and is responsible for every thought and memory you have. Grey matter essentially refers to your mental capacity – and MRI results show that a regular yoga practice turns it up.
Frontiers in Integrative Neuroscience stated that “Our results suggest an association between regular long-term yoga practice and structure and function of specific brain regions involved in executive function, specifically working memory, which has previously shown to improve with yoga practice.”
In multiple yoga postures, we cross arms and legs across the midline of our body. As examples, this may be in Threading the Needle or bringing your left knee to your right elbow in a plank position, or even in Revolved Triangle pose. Not only are these poses designed to strengthen some parts of your body while elongating and stimulating other parts, but the mere crossing of limbs over the body is ultra- stimulating and healthy for your brain.
Additionally, the results of these brain-boosting movements are said to be amplified when you exercise with other people, as part of a group.
But what about long term memory? It is each night while you sleep that your brain couriers all the information from your hippocampus USB stick, over to the hard drive of your cortex. This happens in the NREM cycles of your sleep making the quality of your sleep crucial for long term memory – as well as to clear the USB stick to make room for tomorrow’s short-term memories.
Power, Moderate, Slow Flow and Yin Yoga all work to promote relaxation in your nervous system, switching you over from ‘Fight or Flight’ mode into ‘Rest & Digest’ mode. It’s this Rest & Digest mode that will allow you to slip into sleep faster and deeper, therefore aiding in improving the quality of your sleep and the functionality of both your short-term and long-term memory.
We look forward to helping you build a regular yoga practice so you can experience all of these brain benefits. And if your friend from Curl Curl or your neighbour from Balgowlah is complaining about forgetting things, then we’d love to see them too!
See you all on the mat soon, Sherrie xx
Sherrie Laryse is a teacher and mentor with 10+ years studying and working in human behaviour, neuro linguistics, grief, trauma, psychosomatics, mental illness and yoga. Sherrie has positioned herself a leading teacher on how to process our experiences -our external environment- in order to control our emotions, our health and our state of being –our internal environment. Sherrie consults internationally as well as teaching group workshops in Australia and New Zealand.
The Teenage Brain: sherrie.com.au/blog