Do you find yourself forgetting appointments? Losing your keys? Remembering faces but not names? Memory lapses like these are common, especially if you’re over 40. But they don’t have to be. According to ayurveda, you can give your memory a power boost at any age. Try the tips below and see if they work for you.
At least five days a week, take a 30-minute walk in the fresh air, or do 12 cycles of the hatha yoga series known as the sun salutation. Add inversions like the shoulder-stand and plow pose to increase blood flow to the brain.
Two yogic practices–alternate nostril breathing and anuloma viloma–stimulate the left and right hemispheres of the brain and improve memory. Or try this exercise: Stand straight with your eyes gazing forward. Gradually inhale, constricting the epiglottis (located just behind the base of your tongue) as you tilt your head back, looking up at the sky at the end of the inhalation. On the exhale, keep the epiglottis constricted as you slowly bring your chin to your chest, looking down to the ground. You’ll know you’ve got it right if it sounds like the ocean when you hold a seashell up to your ear. Repeat this cycle 7 times.
Memory is like a muscle–if you don’t use it, you lose it. Exercise your mind by memorizing a new prayer, poem, or Sanskrit scripture, reciting it every morning until you know it by heart. Then start learning a new one.
Feed Your Brain
According to ayurveda, memory-boosting foods include sweet potatoes, okra, spinach, oranges, carrots, milk, ghee (clarified butter), tapioca, and almonds.
Detoxify Your Body & Mind
A five-day mono-diet of kitchari (an ayurvedic rice and bean dish) will cleanse your system of ama (toxic residue), which can weaken memory–and lead to illness as well. To make kitchari, double rinse 1 cup each of basmati rice and yellow split mung dal. Add the rice, dal, and a small handful of chopped cilantro leaves to 6 cups of water and bring to a boil for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Then reduce the heat to low and cook partially covered for 25 to 30 minutes. Eat kitchari garnished with freshly chopped cilantro and a teaspoon of ghee three times a day for five days to cleanse your body and mind.
Ayurvedic scriptures have a special classification for memory-boosting herbs: medhya (translated as “that which improves memory”). Some of the best herbs in this category include brahmi, jatamamsi, bhringaraj, and shanka pushpi, which can be found online or at Indian grocery stores. Here are a few ways to get these herbs into your system:
Make a Memory-Boosting Tea
Steep 1 teaspoon total of the four herbs listed above in 1 cup of hot water for 10 minutes. Strain and drink on an empty stomach twice a day.
Oil your Nostrils
According to ayurveda, the nose is the doorway to the brain, and thus, to memory. That’s why the smell of a particular flower may remind you of the day you strolled through Central Park in New York City, or why a waft of marinara sauce reminds you of family get-togethers. To stimulate the olfactory bulb (the nerve center in the brain that is responsible for your sense of smell) place 5 drops of warmed brahmi ghee (which you can purchase online) in each nostril at bedtime, lying down on your back with your head tilted up to the ceiling. Then inhale gently several times to help move the oil into the sinuses.
World-renowned ayurvedic physician Vasant Lad, BAMS, MASc, is the founder of the Ayurvedic Institute (ayurveda.com) in Albuquerque, NM.
Yoga+ is an award-winning, independent magazine that contemplates the deeper dimensions of spiritual life—exploring the power of yoga practice and philosophy to not only transform our bodies and minds, but inspire meaningful engagement in our society, environment, and the global community.
By Vasant Lad, Yoga+