SuperBrain Yoga Hoax

Benna Crawford
guy sitting in yoga position

Wouldn't it be cool if you could crank out a simple asana that made you smarter? SuperBrain Yoga claims it delivers a faster, smarter, more powerful brain. It sounds impossible, like a joke or a hoax, but could SuperBrain Yoga be real? While some claim it is a hoax, others suggest it works.

SuperBrain Yoga

SuperBrain Yoga is a technique publicized by pranic healer and author GrandMaster Choa Kok Sui. His book and website claim the ancient technique, which he refined and reintroduced, restores brain connections, reduces stress, and slows aging, stimulates the chakras and re-energizes the body, and boosts retention. SuperBrain Yoga maintains athletes, artists, educators, therapists, young, and old benefit from improved overall brain-body performance and enhanced wellbeing.

The website cites unnamed studies that show "Alpha waves activity increases immediately after performing SuperBrain Yoga for only 1 min." This increased time in the Alpha state is credited with improved memory, creativity, intuition, emotional stability, and better health.

How to Do It

  1. Remove your jewelry and face East.
  2. Stand tall with both feet flat on the floor or your mat, about hip-width apart.
  3. Touch the tip of your tongue to the roof of your mouth. Keep it there throughout the exercise.
  4. Cross your arms over your chest, right arm over left.
  5. Grasp each earlobe with its opposite hand - the right ear with the left thumb and fingers, the left ear with the right. The thumbs should rest on the fronts of the earlobes.
  6. Inhale, bend your knees, squeeze your earlobes lightly and lower yourself into a squat.
  7. Stop when your knees reach 90 degrees.
  8. Exhale and raise your body to standing position.
  9. Repeat for a total of 15 squats. If you can't manage that many at first, try five squats, rest for five breaths, try another five squats, working up to fifteen in a row over time.

Don't Forget the Elephant

If SuperBrain Yoga squats remind you of something, you're either a yoga practitioner or a devout Hindu. (Or you might be a misbehaving schoolchild.) The asana Utkatasana or chair pose is the same move, minus the crossed arms and ear grab. However, add those upper-body arm, finger, and tongue positions, and you have a devotional practice known as Thoppukaranam, performed for Lord Ganesh, the elephant-headed deity. Direction is significant in the enactment of Hindu ritual. East is the compass point of the rising sun and a principal location for many of the gods, so one often meditates or prays facing East. Thoppukaranam is also a common classroom corrective for unruly or inattentive children in India.

The Ears Have It

The ears contain sensitive acupuncture points. Pinching the right earlobe stimulates the left brain and pinching the left lobe stimulates the right brain. Simultaneous pressure aligns and synchronizes both halves of the brain. Pressure on the earlobes may trigger beneficial hormone production and restore balance to several glands such as the hypothalamus and the pineal gland, which control circadian rhythm, and the response to light and dark. In Chinese traditional medicine, the ears may be stimulated to encourage the release of feel-good endorphins.

Hands Up if It's a Hoax

The disbelievers dismiss SuperBrain Yoga's fabulous claims and classify it as a hoax. Dr. Steven Novella, an academic clinical neurologist at Yale University, publishes a skeptic's blog in which he repeatedly debunks the SuperBrain Yoga fad as pseudoscience. Novella says studies of the effects of SBY are flawed and biased, that prana energy is make-believe, and that researchers who attribute increases in Alpha-wave activity and other improvements to SuperBrain Yoga failed to conduct blind evaluations and omit crucial details from their study protocols and conclusions.

What the Science Says

A 2014 study published in the International Journal of Yoga examined the effect of the SuperBrain Yoga exercise on the psychological states and selective attention of 80 undergraduate students in India. The students who performed thoppukaranam, or the SuperBrain squats, scored significantly higher than the controls in cognitive functioning including attention, mindfulness, and concentration. They also outperformed their peers in mental processing speed, acuity, and accuracy, and showed a significant reduction in stress and anxiety.

Another (non-randomized, empirical) study, published in Perspectives in Psychiatric Care in 2018, concludes that school-age children with hyperactivity disorder showed marked improvement after a test using SuperBrain Yoga. Neither the Ganesh ritual nor the SuperBrain moves have been extensively studied by research scientists.

Brain-Booster or Bogus?

SuperBrain Yoga is either a powerful intervention for Alzheimer's, autism, and attention disorders, or it's not. Anecdotally, and according to limited studies, five minutes of ear-pinching squats a day will improve your life, make you less forgetful, and maybe a lot smarter. That homage to Ganesh could confer more than spiritual blessings. If your curiosity is piqued by SBY, put your right arm over your left, don't forget to squeeze your ears, and inhale as you squat. Then make up your own, potentially sharper, mind.

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SuperBrain Yoga Hoax