Masters of Health Magazine January 2017 - Page 10

Strike a pose. Yoga combines breathing, holding postures and meditation, a trifecta that not only protects the integrity of your brain, but thickens layers of your cerebral cortex, too. Brain scans now reveal that yoga changes your brain chemistry in positive ways. It helps build more robust levels of gray matter in brain areas involved with pain modulation. (1)

Yoga’s neuroprotective properties not only spare the brain from gray matter loss, but they seem to build up gray matter volume in certain regions of the brain, too. This is important because losing gray matter can lead to memory impairment, emotional problems, poorer pain tolerance and decreased cognitive functioning.

In 2015, researchers from McGill University and the National Institutes of Health found that consistency in your practice matters, too. The more years of yoga practice under someone’s belt was associated with positive changes in the left hemisphere, including increasing gray matter volumes in clusters located in the left insula, left frontal operculum, right middle temporal gyrus and left orbitofrontal cortex. These areas of the brain are involved in:

•Perception

•Motor control

•Self-awareness

•Cognitive functioning

•Interpersonal experience

•Inhibition

•Impulse control

•Social behavior

•Memory processing

•Emotion and rewarding decision making (2, 3, 4, 5, 6)

If you haven’t been practicing for years, don’t worry, your brain is still changing. Those same researchers found that the number of hours of weekly practice correlated with gray matter volume in different areas of the brain, including the hippocampus, primary visual cortex, primary somatosensory cortex/suprior parietal lobule and precuneus/posterior cingulate cortex.

These areas of the brain include functions related to:

•Self-consciousness

•Self awareness

•Limbic system (emotion regulation) (7)

Juggle. It’s clear juggling increases hand/eye coordination, but what’s going on inside your brain while juggling is absolutely incredible. Juggling doesn’t just increase your brain’s grey matter, the part of the brain that contains nerve cells’ bodies. It also helps a part of your brain that enhances cellular connections grow. In 2009, scientists from the University of Oxford discovered juggling bulks up your brain’s “white matter,” too. White matter consists of parts of the brain that contain mostly axons. These are outgrowths of nerve cells that serve as cell connectors. (8)

Several breakthroughs in brain science over the last few years suggest humans actually have the power to increase brain size. This can change your life in so many ways, from increasing memory and Ways to Increase the Size of Your Brain:

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