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Yoga and Memory


The concept of memory development in modern science is again limited to increasing the capacities of the brain cells... to increase the ability to recall and recognize ... to gain mastery over this process at best.

  1. Logical method : this consists of observing meaning and connection such as similarities, contrasts, relationships, and organizing the given material, accordingly.

  2. Understanding the meaning of the material : if attention is paid to the meaning of the lesson, there is no doubt that the material is remembered much better. This is called rational memory. However, this is not applicable to all material, e.g., multiplication tables cannot be understood.

  3. Over learning : this is another method, which means learning a lesson beyond the point which the learner can reproduce the lesson without committing an error. This "over learning" makes the lesson set in firmly. Many motor skills, such as swimming or riding a bike are never forgotten because we would have practiced them far beyond the level of an errorless reproduction.

  4. Spaced and unspaced learning : studying continuously without space, rest or relaxation in between, is called unspaced learning. Studying with a break in between is called spaced or distributed learning. Experiments have shown that spaced learning is far better than unspaced learning.

  5. Mnemonics: This is the name given to different artifices by whom memory of a series of disconnected facts or figures is made simpler. e.g. a mnemonic to remember the colors of the rainbow is 'Richard of York gained battles in vain' - for red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet. However, when we make up a mnemonic ourselves it is the most useful for us.

How practicing yoga may help in memory development

a. Deepening perception

functioning optimally, some aspects of perception will be lost or blunted. The first step, then is to increase the sensitivity of these pathways. This can be done by stimulations (through kriyas) and relaxation (shavasana, pranayama, and indeed any yoga practice).

b. Reducing distractibility and increasing the attention span

yogic exercises aim at reaching (ultimately) a state of mental transcendence. One aspect of this state is to have the ability to alter one's mental functions at will. Even if this super awareness stage is not attained, some measure of mental control is certain, which allows a person to direct his attention to the material which has to be memorized to the exclusion of other thoughts.

c. Activating dormant areas

It is interesting that even an acclaimed genius uses not more than 10% of the full brain potential. Most of us use less than 5% of our full brain capabilities. Yogic practices may help in activating dormant areas.

d. Sifting useful memories from useless ones for our overall development

Memory development should ideally help us to reach the very source of our thoughts and our existence (in yogic lore Anandamaya kosa). One of the way in which this can occur is if constructive, useful memories are retained, where as purposeless ones which generate displeasure and ill will are erased.

What practice can you do to improve memory?

before you start studying clear your mind by doing kapalabhati (40-60strokes/min), Suryanuloma (9 rounds), Chandranuloma(9 rounds) and Bhramari (5rounds). This capsule of yoga can be used several times during your study period.

This clears all unwanted disturbing thoughts and makes the background clear, so that whatever if you perceive and understand can soak into deeper layers of your memory system.




  • Adopt Nasika Mudra with your right hand.

  • Close the right nostril with the tip of the thumb.

  • Inhale and exhale slowly through the left nostril (Candra Nadi) only.

  • Keep the right nostril closed all the time during the practice.

  • One cycle of inhalation and exhalation forms one round.

  • Practice nine rounds.


  • Time taken for exhalation should be longer than inhalation.

  • Anxiety patients may practice this Pranayama 27 rounds before breakfast, lunch, dinner and before sleep
    (4 times a day).

This article has been written by Dr. R. Nagarathna, Dean, Division of Yoga & Life-sciences, SVYASA
This article is published online courtesy
and Arogyadhama

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