A yoga practice that can improve brain function in as little as 5 minutes per day? Sounds like the stuff of fairy tales. But neurologists, teachers, doctors and other scientifically grounded individuals across the country are advocating a system called “Superbrain Yoga” as a possible anecdote for autism, Alzheimer’s, and even plain old brain drain.
The bible of this technique is Master Choa Kok Sui’s book SuperBrain Yoga, which describes, in intricate detail, a series of poses and movement sequences “based on the principles of subtle energy and ear acupuncture.” At its most basic level, Superbrain Yoga attempts to integrate the right hemisphere of the brain (which handles our emotional intelligence and deals with the here and now) with the left hemisphere (the linear, methodical side). It also clears our energy centers, or chakras, allowing our minds and bodies to function more smoothly.
There is growing scientific research to back up the dramatic claims of Master Choa Kok Sui and his disciples. According to the Superbrain Yoga website:
“Pilot studies on the effects of Superbrain Yoga® on school children include children with disabilities such as ADHD/ADD, developmental and cognitive delays, Down syndrome and specific learning disabilities. Children studied showed significant increase in academic and behavioral performance, greater class participation and improved social skills. In one study, the result of an electroencephalograph showed increased amplitude in the parieto-occipital region of the brain following the Superbrain Yoga. This indicates increased brain electrical activity following the exercise.”
In a segment for CBS News (see video below), reporters interviewed a doctor who had prescribed Superbrain Yoga for a C-average student, who began excelling in his classes after committing to the practice. An occupational therapist who had seen marked improvement in dyslexic, autistic and otherwise challenged kids called the system the “key to unlocking these children”.
Considering the entire practice consists mostly of a series of squats done while stimulating acupressure points on the ears – the left earlobe corresponding with the right hemisphere of the brain and vice versa – this is certainly a yoga application worth trying. It’s a drug-free, inexpensive and relatively simple way to increase brain acuity; all you need to do is find a qualified instructor or read the book and adapt the moves on your own. However, Grand Master Choa Kok Sui, the founder of Superbrain Yoga, warns that the practice has been distorted as it has gained popularity, so it is important to understand the scientific principles behind the system and ensure that you are doing the exercises correctly.
This is yoga that exercises the brain rather than the body, and there is little variation of poses (in other words, this does not work the whole body, but rather focuses solely on strengthening the mind by way of the body), but it still has its place in the yoga family. Why? Well, besides the fact that the system is deeply rooted in the teachings of Indian Rishis, Superbrain Yoga practitioners stress the importance of committing fully to the practice, warning that results may be affected by not facing the correct direction, positioning the arms or fingers properly, or breathing incorrectly. Since all yoga is of the “beauty in the details” school of thought, Grand Master Choa Kok Sui’s system fits right in.
Perhaps a simple way to try Superbrain Yoga would be to tack five minutes of it onto the end of your normal yoga practice. Your chakras would already be warmed up and clear, and your breathing deep and conscious – the perfect time to do a few poses that can make your brain as toned and active as your body.
If you’re interested, you might want to try the following sequence, adapted from AARP Magazine’s great article, Your Brain on Exercise:
1. Place your left hand on your right earlobe, thumb on the front of the lobe with fingernail facing outward and second finger behind the earlobe. Then, with your right hand, grasp your left earlobe, again keeping your thumb on the front of the lobe, facing outward. Press both earlobes simultaneously, making sure your left arm is close to your chest and inside your right.
2. As you press on the earlobes, squat down, keeping your back straight. Do 10 to 12 deep bends, inhaling through the nose on the way down and exhaling through the mouth coming up. You may place a chair underneath you as a safety precaution.