How much of your brain do you use? Most people overestimate the answer to this question. Neuroscientists claim that we use only 10% of our brains. Yet unlike our heart, most of us do not exercise our brain organ. When doctors tell us we need a cardiovascular workout at least three times a week to keep our hearts healthy, we increase our running or walking exercise. What do you do to increase your brain capacity? Today, it is easy to find yoga for energy and peace of mind but fewer people practice yoga for improving brain functioning.
Yoga for a total mind-body transformation is not complete unless it includes a workout for the brain. Super brain yoga is a proven way to increase your brain capacity. Super brain yoga adherents claim that placing the hands on the ear lobes while doing squats can make you smarter. The Hindus call the practice Thoppukaranam – ‘Thorpi,’ which means with the hands + ‘Karnam,’ which means ears. In Hindu tradition, Thoppukaranam is performed facing Lord Ganesha – the god of wisdom, knowledge and intellect.
Indian children learn Thoppukaranam early, especially if they are naughty in school. Brain yoga is said to be used as a form of discipline in Indian schools but it may be more accurate to describe it as a form of reformation. The crisscrossing of the arms in front of the chest while grabbing the ear lobes with the hands is a sign of punishment, Thoppukaranam. Teachers have traditionally sent misbehaving children to a corner to give them time to quiet their minds and reflect upon their deeds. The practice of Thoppukaranam also reduces the anxiety that may be behind the mischievous behavior while quieting the mind and improving concentration.
Super Brain Yoga and Neuroscience
Forward thinking Western doctors and therapists have started to use super brain yoga with children with autism, attention deficit disorder and other behavioral disorders. Anecdotally, therapists applying super brain yoga while working with children with autism have reported very positive results. This is positive news for teachers and parents who may reluctantly be giving children drugs to deal with hyperactivity and attention deficit disorder.
Little scholarly attention has been paid to super brain yoga until recently. The April 2014 International Journal of Yoga has provided more scientific evidence of its effectiveness. Indian doctors of psychology, yoga and the physical sciences sought to discover if Thoppukaranam could improve cognitive ability in undergraduate students. Thoppukaranam is similar to super brain yoga but in India the terms are not interchangeable. The study found the following impressive results in a group of 30 students: improvements in attention, mindfulness, concentration, and anxiety levels.
The term super brain yoga has become popular in recent years as the practice has gained media attention. For the purposes of this article, it may be related to but should not be confused with the book by Master Choa Koki Sui Superbrain Yoga or Deepak Chopra’s 2012 book Super Brain. While Master Sui helped to popularize this ancient yoga pose, in this article super brain yoga refers to the original Thoppukaranam.
How Does Super Brain Yoga Work?
The positive results produced by super brain yoga can be explained by both Eastern and Western medicine. Chinese acupuncturists and Indian yogis believe that the ear lobes contain energy meridians. Acupuncturists use the ear lobes to access acupuncture points in the brain and pineal gland. Indian yogis explain the super brain yoga effect as an activation of the brain’s energy connections. The right lobe activates the left brain and the left brain activates the right brain. EKGs, a form of brain images, show that the exercise synchronizes the right and left hemispheres of the brain.
The objective is to move the energy from the lower chakras of the body to the higher chakras in the brain region. In this stage, the energy changes into subtler energies that can improve brain functioning.
Pinching the lobes also activates the pineal gland, which sits in the center of the brain. The pineal gland regulates our circadian rhythm and thus mood and overall well-being. The circadian rhythm is the biological clock that regulates our biological processes in 24-hour cycles. Our circadian rhythm operates on the light-dark cycle. This tiny pea-shaped structure regulates the hormone melatonin, which regulates our body’s responses to light and dark.
Many factors affect the health of the pineal glands, including mental stress, an imbalanced circadian rhythm and nutritional imbalances. Since Indian yogis discovered the super brain practice thousands of years ago, many factors in our environment have changed, putting the health of the pineal gland even more at risk. Environmental pollution is our greatest threat. Increasing evidence shows that radiation may affect our circadian rhythm. Electromagnetic fields may interfere with the functioning of the pineal gland and reduce melatonin production. EMFs emit radiation from power lines and our electronic appliances. Thus, activation of the pineal gland is more important today than ever and could help to regulate many health issues.
How to do Super Brain Yoga
In India, Thoppukaranam is done facing Lord Ganesha.
The object is to move energy and oxygen up into the brain.
- Place the tip of your tongue on the roof of your mouth (the palate) to open the Eustachian tubes in the ears.
- Cross your arms in front of your chest with the right arm over the left.
- Raise your hands towards your ears and grab the opposite earlobe. Place your thumb on the front of the earlobe and your index finger on the back. Squeeze gently.
- Bend your knees and lower your torso into a squat position while inhaling while going down. Keep your knees over the heels to avoid injury.
- Rise into standing position while exhaling.
- Repeat for 15 squats.
Ensure the tongue remains on the roof of the mouth. This position also stimulates the hypothalamus.
If you do chakra yoga or meditation, consider integrating super brain yoga into the practice. As always, start with the root chakra and move the energy up to the throat chakra. At this point, use super brain yoga to let the energies rise into the brain while turning into subtle energies. Each chakra has its own meditation focus to activate the right frequencies. Super brain yoga can add an important dimension to a program such as 7 Day Yoga Routine: Increase Energy & Balance Your Chakras. After working your way through the lower chakras, incorporate super brain yoga to put more energy behind the awakening of the upper chakras in the forehead region and top of the head.
The modern day practice of super brain yoga in the West has removed much of the spiritual significance, including praying to Lord Ganesha. Master Sui optionally recommends invoking divine blessings beforehand and thanksgiving when you are done. Remember that meditations which are purposeful produce greater beneficial effects.
The Hindus place important significance on the direction one faces when doing yoga. According to Hindu dharma, the gods reside in both the east and north. East is the direction of the sun. Traditionally, Hindus perform Thoppukaranam while worshipping Lord Ganesha. If the picture of a god faces east, one sits to the right facing north. If the picture faces north, one faces east. Master Sui recommends facing east. Old people, he suggests, should face north.
The symbolism of Lord Ganesha is still an inspiration to those who perform super brain yoga. The god with an elephant’s head and human body represents wisdom. He is worshiped by all Hindus, across all sects. Lord Ganesha holds a rosary to signify the continuous pursuit of knowledge. As a demonstration of his intelligence, he is the lord of success. He also can remove obstacles and evils.
Who Should Use Super Brain Yoga?
Super brain yoga is not just for children being punished for disobedience in school. Many stories have appeared on autism, pranic healing, yoga, and homeopathic online sites, as well as in the major media, profiling improvements in children with autism attributed to the use of super brain yoga. Anecdotally, it has been shown to produce improvements in symptoms of those with Alzheimer’s, dyslexia and mood disorders, as well as those with memory and learning difficulties.
Consider getting started in kids yoga to introduce your child to yoga and the concept of relaxation and quieting the mind. The squats may be more meaningful to your child as part of a yoga practice. The many other benefits of yoga can then be introduced such as quieting the mind. The child’s anatomy; and respiratory, cardiovascular and muscular system must be considered; as well as flexibility and balance. The child should be taught the proper form for basic poses. Unlike an adult, an energetic child will not think twice about flipping into a body position that could dislocate a shoulder or other body part.
As adults reach their 40s and 50s, they often find themselves recalling where they left the keys, the phone number of a spouse’s office or the name of a new work colleague. Memory loss is commonly experienced as we age. Today, we understand the true potential of the mind’s neuroplasticity. The brain has the capacity to rebuild neural pathways. The brain can heal itself and continue to develop.
Super brain yoga has proven to enhance brain functioning in those of all ages, from school children suffering from attention deficit and hyperactivity to the elderly who are dealing with memory deficits.
In addition to the recent study in the International Journal of Yoga, one of the first evidence-based studies, a number of doctors have gone public with unpublished results. Online testimonials include Dr. Eric Robbins of Los Angeles, who told a news program that one of his student’s grades were raised from a C to an A in one semester. Dr. Eugenius Wang Jr. says brain imaging has shown the ability of super brain yoga to synchronize the right and left hemispheres of the brain.
Super brain yoga is a simple pose that can easily and conveniently be incorporated into your yoga and meditation practice. Make it the tenth lesson in Climber Yoga: 9 Effective Yoga Lessons for Optimal Climbing. When climbing at vertiginous heights, you want to make sure you are thinking effectively under pressure. Strong backs, arm strength, and flexible footing and balance are important but do not forget mental focus and balance in high stress situations. If you are giving your career a lift through Yoga for Career Women: Complete Wellness Package, add super brain yoga to your program and reenergize your brain at the same time. Super brain yoga requires adding only a few more minutes to Short Yoga Sequences for Strength, Clarity and Confidence – and intelligence!