The results are in: yoga breathing can significantly improve memory. In particular, yoga breathing can improve spatial memory. This is the part of memory responsible for recording information about your environment. Spatial memory keeps track of where things are that you can see, where things are that you can’t see, where you are, and how that all fits together. If you tend to have difficulty remembering where you put your keys or finding your way around large cities, then you may benefit from some intentional breathing.
What exactly is meant by yoga breathing? Several types of yoga breathing were included in the studies that revealed the astounding improvement in spatial memory. These included pranayama (voluntary regulation of breathing), nostril breathing (left, right, or alternating), and simple breathe awareness.
Heavy breathing during aerobic exercise won’t cut it. One study of 85 elderly adults found that 16 weeks of aerobic training yielded no improvement in memory retrieval scores. Yet, a study of 108 individuals practicing nostril breathing or breathe awareness, found that they experienced an average 87% improvement in spatial memory scores after only 10 days. Another study had 30 children practice yoga breathing for 10 days. The children experienced a 43% increase in spatial memory scores.
Yoga breathing is easy to do and can be done just about anywhere at any time. There are many other benefits ascribed to breathe awareness besides improved memory, including stress relief and increased attention span. The following is a simple nostril breathing exercise. Try this exercise for at least a week and experience the benefits of intentional breathing:
-Try to sit with your head, neck and spine in a straight line.
-You will inhale through one nostril, hold the breath, then exhale through the other nostril in a ratio of 2:8:4 counts.
-Use the thumb and ring/pinky fingers of your right hand to close the right and left nostrils respectively, and close both nostrils when you hold the breath.
-Once each nostril has had a chance to inhale and exhale, this is called a round. Start with 3 rounds a day and build up slowly to twenty rounds, extending the count within the 2:8:4 ratio (for example, 4:16:8).
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