Oct 29 2015

Superbrain Yoga is BS

Here is the latest fad to make you smarter with one easy trick – Superbrain Yoga. The technique is simple (and worthless, but we’ll get to that).

All you have to do is touch your left hand to your right earlobe, your right hand to your left earlobe, take a deep breath, and do a squat. Who knew it could be so easy to improve your brain function. There are a few more details, helpfully shared by Parenting Special Needs magazine:

– Connect your tongue to your palate.
– Face East
– The left arm must be inside and the right arm must be outside (over the left arm).
– Inhale while squatting down and exhale while standing up.
– You thumbs should be touching the front part of your earlobes, index fingers behind the earlobes.
– Perform the exercise 14-21 times, once or twice a day.

Facing East is very important, because magic.

When I first heard of Superbrain Yoga I thought it was going to be a neuroscience-based pseudoscience, with some hand-waving explanations about blood flow or something. This one is actually blatantly spiritual magical nonsense.

This practice is based on the principles of subtle energy and ear acupuncture. Basically, SuperBrain Yoga allows energy from your lower chakras–or energy centers–to move up to the forehead and crown chakras. When this happens, this energy is transformed into subtle energy, which is utilized by the brain to enhance its proper functioning.

It’s Eastern mysticism, however, which is a far-off exotic culture, so that makes it OK.

A 2008 local news report out of LA is making the rounds on social media. The report is a great example of the shockingly low journalistic standards at many local news stations. There isn’t a hint of skepticism in the entire report, which is basically just an ad for the technique and the book that started it.

The book is by GrandMaster Choa Kok Sui, who (according to reviews) spends two pages telling you how to do the exercises and 113 pages telling you how wonderful he is. Apparently he also describes some “preliminary” studies on the technique. I could not find any peer-reviewed research. I did find this one study that looks at brain waves in subjects doing the technique. Apparently stuff happens in the brain when you do stuff. That is about all you can tell from this uncontrolled observational study. Other studies are all small, uncontrolled, and subjective – people feel energized after they do the exercise. In other words, they are completely worthless as scientific evidence.

The fact that some people feel energized after doing the technique, or observe improvements in their students, is known to be worthless as evidence without proper blinding and controls. Subjective outcomes like that are susceptible to placebo effect, observation and reporting bias. Introduce any novel intervention, then observe what happens, and there will be a subjective response.

The underlying theory is also completely without basis. Acupuncture points, put simply, do not exist. There is no reason to accept the existence of life energy, or subtle energy, prana, chi, chakras or meridians.

Conclusion

If you really want to improve your brain function, or help students or special needs children, there are things you can do. There is no “brain hack” or even “brain training,” one simple trick, or any short cut. If you want to be smarter, then read, study, think, exchange ideas, learn new things, and develop skills.

If you want to keep your brain physically healthy, then you should keep your body physically healthy. You already know what this means – eat a balanced diet, get regular exercise, get plenty of sleep, don’t smoke, and don’t drink to excess or use other recreational drugs.

This, of course, is the potentially harmful aspect of believing in pure superstition, and thinking it will help you. It distracts from reality. Teachers who think they are helping their special needs children by having them do a silly technique are wasting valuable time and attention that is better spent on real interventions. Believing in magic also causes downstream mischief that is difficulty to quantify.

Superbrain Yoga is nonsense. It is prescientific Eastern superstition repackaged for clueless Westerners.

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