The human brain is fascinating and mysterious. It rules our very existence.
We can participate in a number of actions and activities to enhance our brain function, which influences our health and wellbeing — physically, emotionally, and mentally. These days, there are a number of brain-training methods to promote mental fitness. Lumosity is one of the best and most well-known programs. But, did you know that the simple act of crossing your arms and legs can have actual health benefits and change how your brain functions?
We know a fair bit about how the human brain works and how it governs our bodies, emotions, and our psychology. There is still so much that we have yet to learn. It was once thought that we only used 10% of our brain function because it is made up of 10% nerve cells called neurons, which direct our behaviors and thoughts. However, recent research has shown that glial cells, which make up around 90% of our brains, have a lot more influence on our neurons than previously thought. So, in actual fact, we do use more than 10% of our brains.
We also know that the brain is divided into two hemispheres — the right brain and the left brain. The right brain is associated with emotion and creativity and governs the left side of the body. The left brain focuses more on logic and details and controls the right side of the body. Down the center runs the mid line of the central nervous system, or CNS.
”Research has found that when you move your extremities across this mid line, the opposite-sided brain will start to help regulate its movement, meaning both brain hemispheres are now activated and functioning simultaneously,” says Seth M., who wrote on the subject for ExpandedConsciousness.com.
The ambidexterity achieved while crossing your arms and legs can cause your brain to function optimally. It can dramatically reduce stress and help you to learn and cognate more clearly because it synchronizes both hemispheres of the brain and both sides of the body simultaneously.
“Bringing both hemispheres in sync with one another allows you to achieve a sort of ‘super learning’ state of being where you are able to think with both logic and emotion.”
Humans are creatures of habit
We get accustomed to doing the same things over and over again. We live our daily lives doing repetitive rituals and we don’t challenge our brains to function in new and different ways very often. This is why it was thought that we use only 10% of our brains — because that is all it takes to fall into a comfortable pattern of behavior and thought, which is what humans tend to do.
Inviting ourselves to use our brains in ways that we aren’t used to can fire up neurons and their pathways that we don’t use often and can change our habits. This, in turn, can have psychological and physiological benefits. This is why people engage in activities like painting, writing, cooking, running, rock climbing, and yoga. These activities teach us to see the world differently. They force us to think outside of our habits.
The ancient art of yoga has gained popularity in modern times
Yoga involves doing both simple and challenging physical postures called asanas that require flexibility, balance, and focus. It also entails mindfulness and concentration to achieve these postures and keep you in the present moment. It relies on the regulation of breathing to reduce the mind and body’s natural stress response to difficult stimuli. The interaction between your mind, body, and breath can have profound impacts on your health and well being.
“The fascinating thing about the mind-body interaction is that it works both ways. For example, if you’re stressed, your muscles will tense (preparing to run away from a lion), and this will lead to more negative thinking. Relaxing those muscles, particularly the facial muscles, will push the brain in the other direction, away from stress, and toward more relaxed thoughts. Similarly, under stress, your breathing rate increases. Slowing down your breathing pushes the brain away from the stress response, and again toward more relaxed thinking,” says neuroscientist Alex Korb.
The Eagle Pose, or Garudasana, is a perfect example of a pose that crosses the CNS. It can have excellent effects on the body and mind. It requires a fair bit of balance, focus, and flexibility and involves crossing your arms and legs — first to the right side, then the left and balancing on one foot. This pose can take a bit of practice.
Keep it simple
Crossing your arms and legs the ordinary way can have just as many health benefits as doing it in the opposite way to what you are used to. This means both in terms of increasing your ambidexterity and brain function. You don’t have to be a yoga master to do that.
So remember, next time you are bored in a meeting or waiting for a bus, start crossing your arms and legs and know that you are doing something positive for your health. Just make sure your facial expression is serene and not impatient to avoid giving the wrong message — both to others and to your brain.
Featured photo credit: wavebreakmedia via shutterstock.com