According to Maharishi AyurVeda, there are three equally important aspects to mental performance: dhi—learning and comprehension, governed by Vata dosha; dhriti—processing and retention of knowledge, the realm of Pitta dosha; and smriti—memory or recall, controlled by Kapha dosha.
For optimal mental performance, all three of these aspects need to be running smoothly and in good coordination with each other. Ayurveda recommends paying attention to the three fundamental pillars of good health —diet, sleep and lifestyle— to achieve this state of mental wholeness and balance. The following tips help boost brainpower.
"Intelligent” foods help unlock your full brain potential
According to Ayurveda, it’s very important to eat foods that are “intelligent” (natural and pure) for their full benefit to be absorbed by the body. When foods are as close to their natural state as possible, that's when they deliver the most potent nutrition. Foods that have been genetically altered, processed or refined have much of their natural intelligence stripped from them, and they disturb the intellect and the coordination among the three aspects of mental prowess.
Steer clear from foods that are canned or preserved with artificial additives and preservatives, or foods with artificial colors and flavors. Cooking with fresh, organic ingredients can take a little more time and effort, but your brain (and your entire physiology) will reward you with accelerated performance.
Make shopping for food fun. Visit farmers markets in your area for the freshest produce and to try exotic new vegetables and fruits—or, grow your own!
The Ayurvedic diet provides balanced nutrition
The recommended Ayurvedic diet is vegetarian. Grains, beans and legumes provide nutrients for the brain. Be sure to include plenty of cooked leafy greens. Several helpings of fruit and vegetables are recommended. Sweet juicy fruits are excellent cleansers—they help flush toxins out of the body. Freshly-squeezed fruit juices deliver nutrients quickly to your mind and body.
Don't count fat out entirely; fat performs some essential functions in the body, including the brain. Ayurveda recommends ghee, which is valued for its ability to transport the benefits of herbs and spices to the brain and to other parts of the body. Eat ghee in moderation. Include some dairy if you are not lactose-intolerant, such as whole organic milk and fresh yogurt. Almonds and walnuts are also excellent brain foods, and can be added to favorite foods like burgers.
Cut down on "empty" junk foods and sugary drinks that interfere with the absorption of nutrients by the body. Sweet fruits, raisins and dates are a much better option when you need something sweet.
Spices are crucial additions to a brain power-enhancing diet. Many spices enhance digestion and facilitate the clearing of toxins from the body. This means that the channels of the body, including those that serve the brain, will be clear. Black pepper in small quantities is particularly recommended for clearing the channels of the brain.
Antioxidants from whole food sources help protect the brain
The hundred billion cells in your brain continuously use oxygen to stoke the mental fire. But because the brain is such a heavy user of oxygen, it’s particularly susceptible to oxidative damage. Free radicals, reactive oxygen-based chemicals that thrive on stress, pollution and chemicals in your food can build up, damaging cells and brain function over time.
Antioxidants are therefore crucial for continued effective functioning of the brain. Amrit, the powerful broad-spectrum antioxidant from Maharishi AyurVeda, contains amalaki, the Indian gooseberry, considered the richest natural source of vitamin C, along with a rich balance of other herbs. In published research, Amrit has been shown to be 1,000 times more potent as a free radical scavenger than vitamin C or E.
Isolating an active substance from a food or a plant and taking it in the form of a pill or a capsule can sometimes do more harm than good. For example, research on antioxidant beta-carotene, taken as a supplement, has been shown to actually increase the risk of some forms of cancer.
It is best to take your antioxidants the way nature intended—in foods, where they occur in a balanced form. Amrit is a natural potent mix of 38 whole herbs, fruits and spices—a balanced formulation that creates no potentially harmful side effects.
Use aromas & herbs for brain power
Ayurveda talks about a special class of herbs called medhya herbs—herbs especially useful for the mind. These herbs individually enhance learning, retention and recall and also promote the coordination among the three factors. They provide powerful nourishment for the brain.
Aloeweed, Brahmi, and gotu kola are some well-known Ayurvedic herbs that promote the health and functioning of the mind. Aloeweed, for example, enhances memory and problem-solving ability, even under situations of day-to-day stress. Gotu Kola is a memory-enhancer with vayasthapana, or age-inhibiting qualities.
Synergistic formulas that contain not only these herbs but other supporting and balancing herbs such as Ashwagandha that help boost resistance to stress are ideal, especially for individuals in high-stress job environments who need to be at the peak of their mental potential on a consistent basis.
Intelligence Plus has been shown in research to increase intelligence. It is useful for anyone who has to learn new information. Mind Plus enhances problem-solving ability, and is available in syrup form for faster assimilation. Organic Youthful Mind helps maintain mental clarity and memory no matter what your age.
Aromatherapy is also excellent for the mind. Try rosemary for mental clarity and alertness, or basil oil to help dispel mental fatigue and enhance your mind's innate ability to focus. Peppermint oil and lemon oil are also effective pick-me-ups for the mind.
Manage stress levels for a calmer, clearer mind
Stress and anxiety, whether caused by time pressures or difficult work relationships or worrying about losing a job, can have a significant negative impact on mental performance.
A calm mind is unquestionably superior in terms of focus, attention span, retention of knowledge and problem-solving ability. It’s important to manage stress before it becomes a severe problem, because stress has been known to damage or destroy brain cells, and many prescription pills for anxiety can have side effects that can further erode mental performance.
Planning tasks ahead and managing timelines, taking occasional short (even five minute) breaks during periods of intense mental activity, and maintaining a healthy balance between work and relaxation can all help.
The Transcendental Meditation® technique, practiced twice a day for 20 minutes, has been shown to be extremely effective for managing stress. Listening to relaxing music; diffusing aromas that help relax you, such as sandalwood or lavender; or a quiet evening stroll, alone or with a nurturing companion, can all help balance the mind and emotions.
Quality sleep is crucial for brain health
Related to stress is the other plague of modern society—lack of deep, restful sleep. With diet and lifestyle, sleep is a fundamental pillar of Ayurveda. Optimal physical and mental performance is impossible if all three of these factors are not addressed.
Getting eight hours of sleep is less important than striving for quality sleep, which, according to Ayurveda, occurs when the mind is totally disconnected from the senses. Quality sleep recharges and rejuvenates the mind, improving both short-term and long-term mental prowess. How much or how little you need is an individual matter; go by what your body and mind tell you.
The daily morning Ayurvedic self-massage (abhyanga) helps to increase stamina during the day and promotes quality sleep at night. Cutting down on stimulants such as caffeine, alcohol and nicotine; making work-related materials taboo in the bedroom; and winding down the evening with calming activities instead of stimulating ones, to help prepare the mind for restful sleep, are key to getting your zzzs.
Aromatherapy can also help—try a blend of lavender, chamomile, jasmine and sweet orange, or just plain lavender. The Slumber Time Herbal Tea and Slumber Time Aroma can help you ease into restful sleep.
It’s never too late to begin prioritizing your brain health. Upgrades to your diet, supplementation, and sleep habits support a balanced mind, and body. For more information on the Ayurvedic approach to boosting brain power, visit the mind and memory marketplace.
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