Relaxation and memory




Relatively recently, Dr. Sonia Lupien of the Montreal Geriatric Institute studied the effects of chronic stress on memory. In the study she observed that under repeated conditions of stress, increased blood concentrations of cortisol, which is a hormone released by the adrenal gland in response to stress, are associated with premature ageing of the hippocampus, which is the region of the brain that plays a key role in learning and especially memory processes. Its accelerated deterioration, in response to stressful situations repeated over a long period of time, thus leads over time to a weakening of memory. The results of this study were published in Nature Neuroscience in May 1998. Remarkably, the results of this study converge with the traditional Ayurvedic view of behavioural factors influencing memory status, which states that disharmonious overuse of mental faculties leading to mental exhaustion impairs memory functioning.

The great yogic sage Swami Shivananda, who put into practice the principles of the ancient Ayurvedic science in his professional work as a physician, states in his book "The Mysteries and Control of the Mind through Yoga" first published in 1946: "Those who exhaust themselves mentally, who disregard the necessity of observing brahmachariya (perfect sexual continence) and who allow themselves to be overwhelmed by many worries, anxieties and anxieties, soon lose the power of memory".

Swami Shivananda noted that the exaggerated forgetfulness that occurs in stressed beings acts as a kind of defense mechanism of the individual structure, which triggers a kind of subconscious program of distancing from potential disturbing factors, or which are stressful, and then the being behaves as if he "does not want" to reactualize, simultaneously with other information, the worries, fears, tensions experienced in the past and which are stored. Without having been somehow sublimated harmoniously, in the depths of the subconscious mind.

Swami Shivananda then stresses the importance of practicing yogic relaxation techniques and the usefulness of using healing plants with calming effects (shokanashana), which together lead to the restoration of a state of calmness of mind and make it possible to release the subconscious mind from all the "dust" accumulated during the day as a result of stressful situations.

Every human being can have moments when they are no longer able to retrieve from memory what they want to remember. This is usually due to such specific "clumps" of residual mental substance, which somehow prevent the recall of some unpleasant aspect that has been forgotten. These "clumps" are almost always the result of tensions accumulated in the being and which are thus stored at a subconscious level. As soon as they are dispersed through relaxation combined with the use of beneficial herbs with a calming effect (shokanashana), the "forgotten" aspect begins to rise to the surface of the mind in a luminous form, and is associated with a state of peace and lucidity.

This traditional way of regenerating memory makes it possible to put into practice a stenic and refreshing exhortation of a famous song: "Don't worry! Be happy!". Conscious relaxation and the use of soothing herbs, such as rosemary, can make it possible to maintain a very good memory well into old age.