Yoga For Mental & Physical Fitness
A consistent Yoga practice provides many of the same benefits as exercise and meditation do separately. Scientific studies and modern brain imaging techniques, like functional MRI and tomography show it increases gray matter in the brain. 
That supports other objective performance measurements showing consistent yoga practice delays cognitive decline with improvements in memory, goal directed behavior, mental processing speed and decision making. Emotionally, it reduces anxiety and stress.
If that isn’t enough yoga improves the body’s energy levels, similar to exercise  and has also been honed into a tool for preventing and reversing bone density loss associated with Osteoporosis. 
I read of the many benefits of yoga, but never started a practice. One day my wife asks me if I would like to start a beginner’s yoga class with her. I was 64 years old at the time, but I had already been in martial arts for about five years, and the workouts at the Dojo were always “challenging”. So, I figured sure, yoga would be easy compared to martial arts.
We walked into the class, and I see among the middle aged women students milling around, a few older potbelly men. This reinforced my ego that this was going to be an easy class.
I fared a little better than my wife, but it was not the cake walk I expected. Holding a pose while you breathe in and out five times was more challenging than I anticipated. Oh, and those pot belly gents, when I had the presence of mind to look over to see how they were doing in their poses, they seemed to be fairing quite well, thank you. Lesson learned.
Super Brain Yoga — Is it Real?
Super Brain Yoga (SBY) is basically a body weight squat. You cross your arms in front of your chest, place your hands by the side of your head, index finger and thumb holding your earlobes. Breath in as you squat down, exhale as you stand. You perform 10 to 20 squats, once or twice a day.
For students it is reported the practice improves cognition, concentration and academic performance.
We know exercise improves brain function in general. Squats are a good exercise. Can we derive the same SBY health benefits from squats? It seems reasonable to me. What benefit could be gained by crossing your arms to hold your earlobes while taking controlled breaths in step with the squats? Well, it may help focus your mind internally on the physical process of performing the squats. To could help tame the constant flow of ruminating thoughts, so a bit similar to a mediation practice.
So could crossing your arms and holding your earlobes benefit the squat? I’m not saying yes, but I’m certainly not calling it BS.
Beginning A Yoga Practice
I would recommend getting your physicians okay before beginning any exercise program, including yoga. If yoga is of interest to you it is an excellent path to health. While yoga builds strength, balance and flexibility I would still incorporate resistance training into my exercise regime. I would not perform yoga exclusively for my physical training. There is something I find satisfying in lifting weights to build muscle.
There are a dozen different styles of yoga, some styles are more challenging than others. Hatha yoga is a broad term that encompasses many of the physical yoga styles.
You can start on your own using books, DVD’s, or YouTube videos. I recommend beginner’s yoga using simple poses. Yoga instructors are valuable for starting properly. For proper instructions you can join group classes at a local yoga school. Many gyms like the YMCA offer yoga classes to their members. Not having an instructor to guide and point out what you may be doing incorrectly will slow your progress.
© 2020 John Iovine