By Faye Martins
Can Yoga help seniors with memory loss? Ancient Yogic texts indicate that “memory is holding on to that which has been known.” The ability to retain, assimilate, and recall data about past and present events varies among different people, but the issue is of special concern to senior citizens. It is a life quality issue that we might find unimportant, until it happens to us.
Research has shown that stress and unhealthy lifestyles affect memory, and the Alzheimer’s Association predicts that Alzheimer’s alone will reach epidemic proportions as the baby boom generation ages. Although the loss of memory results from a variety of inter-related factors, there is some good news.
There is hope for seniors with memory loss and science is making new and optimistic discoveries. At one time, scientists thought the brain fully matured during childhood, but recent technology has shown that it can develop new neural pathways at any age. Neuroscientists say, “Neurons that fire together wire together.” When the brain repeatedly involves the same thought or action, it can rewire itself.
It is little wonder, then, that Yoga training is becoming popular among seniors. Sanskrit manuscripts expressed many of the ideas that run parallel to modern medicine and the western scientific community is just beginning is just beginning to recognize many Yogic concepts, which are listed below.
• Yoga practice revolves around the idea that purification burns away old ideas and habits, leading to new ways of behaving and thinking. In Yogic philosophy, the burning away of old habits and perceptions, known as samskaras, prepares the mind for new ways of thinking and behaving. This ancient teaching is very similar to the neuron theory in contemporary science.
• The disciplines of controlled breathing, meditation, and physical postures taught in old Yogic philosophy serve in today’s studios as effective ways of increasing the flow of fresh blood and energy to the brain.
• Deep breathing increases energy (the flow of prana) and oxygen to the body’s cells, promoting good memory.
• Inversions provide the brain with an increased supply of blood and oxygen.
• Meditation improves focus, clears the mind of negative thinking, and reduces rumination. A mind that is free of worry and anxiety leads to a better memory.
• Chanting, japa, mantra and kirtan, restores vital life energy (prana) to the body, refreshing the brain and enhancing memory. The OM vibration and mantras work in much the same way.
The theory of neuroplasticity, meaning the brain’s ability to produce new cells, has one drawback. New brain cells need a stress-free environment in which to thrive. Amazingly, Yogis figured this out long ago. With systematic practice, Yoga training has the potential to preserve the mind’s ability in the 21st century – much the same as it did thousands of years ago. For seniors with memory loss, this is good news.
© Copyright – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division
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