The research is indisputable. Most of us know that yoga strengthens the body, creates better flexibility, and reduces stress. But we don’t usually think of yoga as an activity that makes us smarter. Solid medical research proves otherwise. According to new research, yoga both enhances brain function as well as positively affecting the actual structure of the brain.
BRAINERCIZE YOGA is a fully integrated Body/Brain practice that uniquely incorporates physical movements and mental workouts. Its aim is to create an experience that fully addresses the need for activation/relaxation, contraction/expansion, physical/cognitive. It stretches, strengthens, relaxes and releases patterns of physical/emotional/cognitive places of tension and stagnation, helping the body/mind to become more dynamic and fluid.
Why and How Yoga Makes Us Smarter:
Studies have shown:
- 20 minutes of yoga improves speed and accuracy of mental processing to a greater degree than 20 minutes of aerobic exercise.
- According to studies utilizing MRI, fMRI and SPECT brain scans, yoga practitioners have thicker cortexes as well as greater gray matter volume and density in many brain regions, including: frontal cortex, hippocampus, limbic, temporal, anterior cingulate, insula, occipital and cerebellar regions.
- Yoga negates the otherwise normal decline in total gray matter volume that occurs with age.
- Yoga causes specific expansion of the prefrontal cortex, the region of the brain tied to sharper executive functions, involving the mental activities of decision-making, planning, and multi-tasking.
- Yoga helps improve a variety of mental health disorders, including depression, anxiety, ADHD, PTSD, brain injuries, and schizophrenia. Research indicates this positive effect occurs because of increasing the specific brain chemical gamma amino-butyric acid (GABA). GABA is responsible for blocking nerve impulses, and has the ability to instruct neighboring nerve cells to not “fire.” Nerve firing translates to sending an impulse. Without sufficient GABA, nerve cells fire too frequently and too easily. This trigger-happy firing is an electrical cause of anxiety disorders, seizures and various other conditions such as addiction, headache and cognitive impairments.
- Yoga boosts serotonin, and has a similar effect to antidepressants. One study evaluated the effect of yoga on adults diagnosed with major depressive disorder. Yoga practitioners experienced a reduction in symptoms by at least 50%.
- Yoga for teenagers improves their emotional resilience and ability to manage anger. In adolescence, the areas of the brain—the frontal lobes that are the seat of language and reason—are still forming. As well, cognitive and emotional development is still in process. Research shows that yoga facilitates self-awareness, helps teenagers in managing negative emotions, and moves them toward navigating through relationships more smoothly.
- Yoga has been shown to make a significant difference in depression of addicts going through rehabilitation.
- Yoga has been shown to reduce anxiety and aggression among inmates.
BRAINERCIZE YOGA augments the already plentiful beneficial mind/body effects that traditional yoga confers.
The Structure of BRAINERCIZE YOGA classes:
Each BRAINERCIZE YOGA class is divided into three segments that follow evolutionary and developmental processes:
The BRAINERCIZE YOGA Co-Creators:
BRAINERCIZE YOGA has been 20 years in the making. The system was co-developed by Jane G. Goldberg, Ph.D., and Stephanie Marks.
Jane is a relative late-comer to yoga, starting her practice more than twenty years ago at the young age of 50. She quickly intuited the potential of her practice to affect not just the body, but cognitive abilities, as well. With her Ph.D. in cognitive psychology, her 40-plus years of experience as a practicing psychoanalyst specializing in group work, the author of 8 books, and owner of two holistic centers, she took her next life’s journey, leaping into integrating and synthesizing all that had come before. She created a system of specific, playful and fun exercises, BRAINERCIZETM, to be performed in group settings, that have been documented to stimulate mental acuity, memory, response time, and adaptability.
Stephanie Marks is a former dancer, student of Russian ballet, and long- distance runner. As a certified yoga instructor, she created a specialized system of yoga practice she calls YOGIC MOVEMENT. This style of yoga involves movements within the poses themselves, and differentiates her system from most other yoga practices which involve a distinction between movement and postures. In Yogic Movement, Stephanie encourages students to be in constant movement throughout the class. She has specialized in working with children and athletes recovering from injuries.
Together, Jane and Stephanie saw the exceptional efficacy of combining physical movement while simultaneously performing brain exercises. BRAINERCIZE YOGA is the culmination and integration of the thinking and application of these two systems:
BRAINERCIZETM + YOGIC MOVEMENT = BRAINERCIZE YOGA
Brainercize Yoga at La Casa Spa & Wellness Puerto Rico
Thanks to our rooftop platform, we are now holding morning yoga sessions at La Casa Spa and Wellness Puerto Rico. With views of both the rainforest and the ocean, it is an idyllic and beautiful way to start the day.
How BRAINERCIZE YOGA is different from all other yoga systems:
BRAINERCIZE YOGA presents its distinctive method and unparalleled efficacy in the following ways:
→ We consider the children as our best teachers. Children in play are almost infinitely flexible, with fluid and spontaneous movements. When they are allowed free movement, the changes in the tempo and structure of their movements are rapid and constant. This variability augments learning as well as assisting in the integration of sensory information. As we age, however, our bodies and minds become more rigid, inflexible, and set in repetitive (often dysfunctional) patterns of moving. Through constant and repetitive alteration of the pace and variability of our movements, BRAINERCIZE YOGA replicates a child-like playfulness, resetting neuronal and muscular pathways in the Body/Brain, and creating new patterns of moving, thinking and feeling.
→ We incorporate many different kinds of movements specifically aimed to stimulate/activate precise areas of the brain. These movements have been documented by clinicians and researchers to lead to greater cognitive functioning, better balance, improved memory, enhanced awareness and mental acuity as well as increased sharpness, focus and calm.
→ We are moving almost continuously between postures, but also while in the postures. Many yoga practices focus on the movement from posture to posture, and stillness within the postures is an important part of the practice. Stephanie describes an opposing view: “Stillness is an illusion. Within the poses, we move, even ever so slightly. But always, in everything that is alive there is movement. Tuning into this movement makes us feel connected to all that is alive within and without.”
→ We encourage talking and verbal sharing during class. In contradistinction, most yoga studios prefer students to perform the exercises in relative silence. We find that sharing experiences throughout the class builds a sense of community. Intelligence is a group phenomenon. We are smarter with and because of each other. Talking during class manifests our visceral, emotional, and physical sensations into language. Language is what differentiates humans from all other animals, and, more than any of our other astonishing talents and capacities, language, above all else, makes us the smartest animals on the earth.
→ Our classes focus on activating, re-aligning and integrating three points of anatomical, isomorphic arches: in the feet, the pelvic floor and the palate. Anatomically, all three arches have a similar arching upwards curve that is held in place by the surrounding muscles. Each of these arches are formed in utero, and must remain in alignment for the remainder of life for proper structural integration to hold. In alignment, they control the flow of breath, energy and focus throughout the body, affecting balance, and flow of information passing throughout the body. The roof of the mouth is right underneath the brain and in front of the spinal cord, making it a close channel of communication to the brain. The feet mark the end-point of the top to bottom line of muscles, bones, fascia, even energy. The pelvis is the midpoint between the two. By engaging the muscles at both ends of the Body/Brain constellation and the mid-point, there is an overall sense of centering both body and mind.
Often, through injuries, poor posture, and formed asymmetries, the arches collapse. The irregularity cascades from one arch to another: the most common drop of the arches of the feet usually means there is a similar mis-shape in the pelvic floor and the palate. BRAINERCIZE YOGA encourages correction of disturbances and activation of corrective self-healing measures.
- About the palate:
The arched roof of the mouth is known as the palate. There are two palates, each with different functions. The hard palate is the front part of the roof of the mouth, and the soft palate is the back part.
The newborn infant’s palate is soft and unformed. In BRAINERCIZE YOGA we pay special attention to the position of the tongue, resting immediately below the palate.
The position of the tongue is one of the first muscular patterns formed, and is crucial to all babies’ survival. Tongue position enables the infant to be fed as well as supporting communication—through crying, screaming and cooing. The press of the tongue on mother’s nipple, and the pattern of shape forms a set-point, creating life-long patterns.
Various pathogenic conditions—called incorrect oral posture—interfere with the development or maintenance of the normal arch of the palate as well as the positioning of the tongue. Poor tongue posture can produce a host of health problems if left uncorrected. People with a weak soft palate often have a nasal voice and typically snore when they sleep. Each of the following conditions reflect palate/tongue dysfunction:
- Snoring and sleep apnea
- Bite dysfunction
- Improper swallowing
- Crowded teeth or front gaps
- Muscular pain in the mouth
- Temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ)
- Neck pain/tension (due to joint dysfunction)
- Developmental problems relating to the jaw
Once the tongue is properly positioned, jaw muscles can relax, and we can form the natural arch of the palate. These changes create better breathing with increased oxygen consumption. With better nasal air flow, nitric oxide is produced, contributing to better blood flow. We witness transformations and a sense of overall wellbeing throughout the entire body.
♣ BRAINERCIZE YOGA corrective exercise for the hard palate: clucking. Raise your tongue to the roof of your mouth and suction it against your hard palate. Hold in place for five seconds, then release. Repeat several times.
♣ BRAINERCIZE YOGA corrective exercise for the hard palate: We encourage frequent lip fluttering, also called the lip trill, the lip roll, or even the lip bubbling throughout the sequences. This action encourages lip, jar and tongue relaxation and serves as a release and reset of breath and further relaxes the jaw. Infants use their voices as full-throated experiences. Often, as we learn to speak, we begin the process of holding back. Yet, when we expel a full breath with sound, we have the potential of manifesting a full feeling of generosity, of giving away our breath. It is not possible to flutter the lips and hold back at the same time. Lip fluttering is a tangible, physical way of exploring the feeling of being fully engaged.
♣ BRAINERCIZE YOGA corrective exercise for the soft palate: yawning. We yawn to force our soft palate to arch upward. To get an even better effect, we yawn and say “ah” at the same time.
♣ BRAINERCIZE YOGA corrective exercise for strengthening soft palate: humming. We encourage periodic humming during all classes. We hum for a few seconds while doing postures; sometimes we blow our cheeks out for a second. An advanced sonic yogic technique, bhramari pranayama, was practiced at the origins of yoga. Swami Satchadinanda wrote that the first sound was pranava, or the humming of prana (life energy). According to the Swami, this humming needed a name; they called it “OM”. Therefore, according to the Hindu tradition, the first sound was a hum. The Swami started off the 1968 Woodstock Festival by having half a million people chanting and humming. The vibrations of humming affect the whole body. Humming has been used in modern times to relieve pain, reduce stress, improve sleep, manifest neuro-genesis—the creation of new connections in the brain, and, finally, has been shown to reduce symptoms of Alzheimer’s. According to Jonathon Goldman, author of The Humming Effect: The Simplest Sound Is the Most Powerful, humming heals and transforms us on physical, emotional, mental and spiritual levels.
- About the feet:
Until we are able to walk, our feet remain mostly unformed and arch-less. Through repeated efforts and activation of the surrounding muscles, the feet slowly form with the inner arches lifting upwards, and we are enabled to walk. As children and adults, the weight of our body is placed on our feet as we walk and move throughout the day. Repeated movements create set patterns and shapes throughout the body. In BRAINERCIZE YOGA we work actively and vigorously with the feet and the toes to create correct musculature and proper arch curvature.
→ BRAINERCIZE YOGA corrective exercise for strengthening the feet: stepping on balls. We use tennis and Lacrosse balls both as tools to break up the muscle tissues on the soles of the feet and also as props to assist in balancing.
- About the pelvic floor:
The pelvic floor is core to the human body, comprising muscles and tissues that support all of the organs in the pelvis (vagina and uterus in women; bowel and bladder and ability to have orgasms in both men and women).
The infant in diapers does not have the physical or mental capacity to control her pelvic floor muscles; hence the use of diapers. The upward arch of the pelvic floor develops integrity as the child learns to control urinary/bowel functions. As development occurs, the infant gains control of her pelvic floor muscles giving way to movements like creeping, crawling, standing, walking.
Pelvic floor dysfunction occurs when supporting muscles lose the ability to fully contract, release and expand as needed. Sitting and aging are the main causes of pelvic floor dysfunction. Symptoms include: pain in the vagina, vulva, clitoris, testicles, penis, perineum, bladder, or rectum as well as frequent urination, incomplete emptying of bladder, constipation, or pain during sexual activity.
Researchers have now documented that the pelvic floor has direct connection to the brain; strengthening the pelvic floor also activates portions of the brain.
♣ BRAINERCIZE YOGA corrective exercise for strengthening the pelvic floor: We incorporate many narrow and shallow squats throughout the sequences to activate the pelvic floor muscles. Pressing the tongue on the roof of the mouth while performing these squats activates the upper lifts of the body, thus bringing better overall alignment and balance.
♣ BRAINERCIZE YOGA corrective exercise for strengthening the pelvic floor: While bridge primarily strengthens the buttocks, when we combine it with a swaying motion, it also activates the pelvic floor.
→ We focus on natural and inevitable asymmetries between sides of the body. Stimulating awareness of contrasts between right and left sides allows us to make corrections to reduce problematic asymmetries.
→ Our classes are performed outdoors wherever possible. We believe in the healing effect of natural sunlight. As well as the well-known effect of stimulating the production of vitamin D in the body, the sun specifically increases production of multiple antioxidants including glutathione; increases peptide production and the release of signaling peptides in tissues; exhibits anti-inflammatory effects and improved pain control; increases cellular production of energy (ATP); increases protein synthesis; regenerates tissues.
→ Our classes are performed as close to sunrise and sunset as possible. We believe in the healing effect of our bodies being in tune with earth’s circadian rhythm. Some physicians maintain that this is the most important life-style change that can be made for the restoration of health. Perhaps, as some say, even more important than dietary changes.
→ Our indoor classes are performed with infrared light. No florescent or incandescent lights are used. Florescent light, the cheapest source of artificial light, is used in most yoga studios, and reduces the production of melatonin by 80%; incandescent light fares a little better in reducing the production of melatonin by 40%. Melatonin is a powerful disease-preventative, and exposing yourself to non-native light deactivates the immune system.