Did You Know About Thoppukaranam AKA ‘Super Brain’ Yoga?

Recently, while surfing channels, I came across a news report on CNN (US) about ‘Super Brain’ Yoga, a simple 5 minute exercise that offers benefits not just for young students, but also adults seeking brain wellness into their senior years and patients with Down Syndrome, Alzheimers, or other development challenges and cognitive delays seeking cures. Here’s a short video on ‘Super Brain’ Yoga :

This piqued my interest, and so decided to do some research on the roots of this technique. Turns out, this is something Hindus have been doing for ages! As this blog enunciates –

“Hindus have been doing ‘Super Brain’ Yoga for ages in front of temples devoted to Shri Ganesha. You can observe that while crossing a Ganesha temple on road, most people stop, take off their footwear, perform “Thoppukaranam”, and then resume their journey. Shri Ganesha is associated with knowledge/memory, a point which is now proved by this research. It is called ThoppuKaranam in Tamil. It is nothing but a dynamic utkatasana (Yoga).

It is really funny to me when I see Hindus going to the doctor’s for memory loss and the doc explain how to do Thoppukaranam. I was taught to do this at school while I was studying pre-primary back in days in Kumbakonam. My grandmother used to take me to the Kumbeshwarar Kovil (temple); she taught me to do Thoppukaranam and I also used to watch her step into elephant’s dung – it apparently has some medicinal affects to soothe her feet.

Thoppukaranam is a traditional practice in Indian Schools, accepted from Gurukulam system of education to make the child sit and stand catching both the ears with hands crossing each other symbolizing punishment for lethargy, laziness and not memorizing or grasping and to improve brain power etc. Most people do it in front of idol of Ganesha by crossing their arms and holding the ear lobes between the tips of the thumb and fore finger; next they bend their knees and get up–doing this three times.”

And as another blog further clarifies :

The Hindus call the practice Thoppukaranam – ‘Thorpi,’ which means with the hands + ‘Karanam,’ which means ears. Hindu Yogis explain the ‘Super Brain’ Yoga effect as an activation of the brain’s energy connections. The right lobe activates the left brain and the left brain activates the right brain. EKGs, a form of brain images, show that the exercise synchronizes the right and left hemispheres of the brain.

The objective is to move the energy from the lower chakras of the body to the higher chakras in the brain region.  In this stage, the energy changes into subtler energies that can improve brain functioning. Pinching the lobes also activates the pineal gland, which sits in the center of the brain.  The pineal gland regulates our circadian rhythm and thus mood and overall well-being. The circadian rhythm is the biological clock that regulates our biological processes in 24-hour cycles. Our circadian rhythm operates on the light-dark cycle. This tiny pea-shaped structure regulates the hormone melatonin, which regulates our body’s responses to light and dark.

Many factors affect the health of the pineal glands, including mental stress, an imbalanced circadian rhythm and nutritional imbalances.  Since Hindu Yogis and Rishis discovered the super brain practice thousands of years ago, many factors in our environment have changed, putting the health of the pineal gland even more at risk. Environmental pollution is our greatest threat. Increasing evidence shows that radiation may affect our circadian rhythm. Electromagnetic fields may interfere with the functioning of the pineal gland and reduce melatonin production. EMFs emit radiation from power lines and our electronic appliances. Thus, activation of the pineal gland is more important today than ever and could help to regulate many health issues.”

How to do Thoppukaranam (‘Super Brain’ Yoga)

In Bharat, Thoppukaranam is done facing Shri Ganesha. The object is to move energy and oxygen up into the brain.

  1. Place the tip of your tongue on the roof of your mouth (the palate) to open the Eustachian tubes in the ears.
  2. Cross your arms in front of your chest with the right arm over the left.
  3. Raise your hands towards your ears and grab the opposite earlobe. Place your thumb on the front of the earlobe and your index finger on the back.  Squeeze gently.
  4. Bend your knees and lower your torso into a squat position while inhaling while going down. Keep your knees over the heels to avoid injury.
  5. Rise into standing position while exhaling.
  6. Repeat for 15 squats.
  7. Ensure the tongue remains on the roof of the mouth.  This position also stimulates the hypothalamus.


What is the spiritual aspect of Thoppukaranam?

“The modern day practice of ‘Super Brain’ Yoga in the West has removed much of the spiritual significance, including praying to Shri Ganesha. We should invoke divine blessings beforehand and thanksgiving when you are done.  Remember that meditations which are purposeful produce greater beneficial effects.

The Hindus place important significance on the direction one faces when doing yoga.  According to Hindu dharma, the gods reside in both the east and north.  East is the direction of the sun.  Traditionally, Hindus perform Thoppukaranam while worshipping Shri Ganesha.  If the picture of a god faces east, one sits to the right facing north.  If the picture faces north, one faces east.

The symbolism of Shri Ganesha is still an inspiration to those who perform Thoppukaranam. The God with an elephant’s head and human body represents wisdom.  He is worshiped by all Hindus, across all sects. Shri Ganesha holds a rosary to signify the continuous pursuit of knowledge.  As a demonstration of his intelligence, he is the God of success.  He also can remove obstacles and evils.”

Just one of the nuggests of wisdom and evidence based Hindu traditions that many Hindus today are unaware of, but which are beneficial to all of humanity! We at HinduPost will endeavor to bring more such hidden facets of Hindu Dharma to you, the reader.