Yoga and the variety of practices that surround it target an aspect of our body that influences our physical, mental, and emotional life: the spirit. Through different poses and breathing techniques, your body can enter modes that can clear the clutter in your headspace and bring you to relaxation. The way this state of mind illuminates our everyday life is what makes yoga such a beneficial exercise, but it delivers a myriad of health benefits, too.
Some people do yoga because they want to lose weight, increase their flexibility, or improve athletic performance, but at its very core, yoga strengthens mental ability. If you’ve tried yoga before, then you know that it takes focus and perseverance to hold those poses and push your body to the limit. Certain yoga poses can actually stimulate our nervous system, training it for memory improvement and better cognitive ability instead.
This isn't just a testament to the mystical elements of yoga—it's scientifically proven that practicing yoga for at least 20 minutes every day can enhance your brain function. You can start getting smarter and sharper with these seven easy yoga poses!
Tadasana — Mountain Pose
Source: Vinyasa Yoga School
While standing straight with your spine erect, place your arms at your side with your fingers pointing down. Raise your toes gently and find your balance on your heels. Stretch your shoulders, arms, and chest upward in this position. Tadasana is a simple pose that can ease you into awareness of your own body.
Padmasana — Lotus Pose
Source: World Peace Yoga School
While sitting on the floor with your spine erect, stretch your legs out. Bend your right knee until you can pull your foot on top of your left thigh, and make sure the sole of your foot points upward and the heel is near your abdomen. Do the same thing with your other leg, then assume the mudra position with your hands over your knees. This position diminishes muscle tension, making it easier to relax and clear your mind.
Padahastasana — Standing Forward Bend
Source: Evolving Your Health
Now, to start seriously activating your nervous system by increasing the blood flow to your brain. While standing straight with your feet together, lift your arms over your head. Bend at your hips and reach for your feet until your torso and head are facing your thighs. Place your arms around your legs and put your hands under your feet or behind your calves.
Paschimottanasana — Seated Forward Bend
Source: The Yogic Prescription
Sit with your legs stretched in front of you. With your arms raised up, bend forward at your hips until your abdomen and chest are close to your thighs. Touch your fingers to your toes while keeping your arms slightly bent at your elbows. Not only does this position improve your concentration, but it helps get rid of headaches, too.
Vrikshasana — Tree Pose
Stand with your spine erect, and find your balance on your left foot. Fold your right leg until you can place your foot on your left thigh. Make sure your toes and pointing downward. Put your palms together in front of your chest, or extend your arms upward. This yoga position calms your nervous system by tapping into your brain’s balance and stability. Remember to practice the same position with your other leg.
Garudasana — Eagle Pose
Source: Yoga Journal
Similar to Vrikshasana, Garudasana also targets your balance, but it integrates your hips and legs to promote neuromuscular coordination. Begin with the same starting position with arms at your side. While balancing on your right foot, bend your knees and cross your left thigh over to the right. Stretch your arms in front of you with your left arm under the other. Bend your elbows until your forearms are perpendicular to the floor and gaze forward. After, switch to the other leg.
Ustrasana — Camel Pose
Source: Yoga Journal
Kneel down with your knees apart and parallel to either side of your hips. Make sure the top of your feet are touching the floor with your toes pointing behind you. Put your hands on your pelvis with your fingers pointing downward and slowly lean back. If you are comfortable in the position, reach your hands back and hold on to the heels of your feet. Ustrasana is great for relieving anxiety, fatigue, and stiffness caused by mental and emotional stress.