Monday, 12 December 2011


What  is memory?

Remembering & recollecting thoughts is known as memory. The function of reflection and recollection is the memory. Memory is the capacity to retain and recall information about past and present incidents.  Memory power varies between individuals. In Sanskrit, the word ‘Memory’ is called ‘smriti’ The yoga sutras describe memory as ‘an experienced object not being lost from the mind.’

Memory is the measure of ability to reproduce the knowledge that is known”, says Yogacharya Vishwas.

Memory is holding on to that which has been known.”- The Hindu Texts.

Memory is the calling up of an object from past experience,” say Patanjali Sutras.
All experiences are stored as impressions and can be recollected like the data bank of a computer. Memory is one of the sources of thoughts as we have seen in one of my earlier postings. Lord Vishnu is the presiding deity of the memory. Now, we know why good memory and money(Goddess Lakshmi-wife of Vishnu) go hand-in-hand.

Where is memory located?

Memory is not an object to be placed  or located anywhere. Most people talk about memory as if it were a thing they have, like a bat or ball. Our memory is not a ‘thing’ you can touch. It is a concept that refers to the process of remembering. We confuse information that are stored with the memory.  Information needs place to be stored and hence can be located but not the memory as it is a process.

Is there short-term or long-term memory?

Yes. There are
Sensory memory:  very very short-term memory. Lasts only a fraction of a second. It is your sensory memory that allows a perception.
Short-term memory:  Lasts for 20 or 30 seconds at a time. We can increase the short-term memory by using various memory techniques. For example, a ten digit number such as 6258409317 may be too much for your short-term memory to hold. This can be divided into chunks as 625-840-9317 and may actually stay in our short-term memory long enough to use that number. Likewise by repeating the number to ourselves  we can keep resetting the short-term memory.
Long-term memory:  The more the information is repeated or used, the more likely it is to end up eventually in long-term memory or to be retained. Unlike sensory and short-term memory which are limited, long-term memory is unlimited. Most people think long-term memory when they think of ‘memory’ itself-but most experts think information must first pass through sensory and short-term memory before it can be stored as a long-term memory.
Short-term memory is the function of conscious mind and long-term memory is the function of sub-conscious mind.

Is there anything called ‘good’ or ‘bad’ memory?

When we want to remember something, we retrieve the information on an unconscious level, bringing it into our conscious mind from sub-conscious mind. While most people think they have either a ‘bad’ or a ‘good’ memory, in fact most people are fairly good at recollecting some types of things which interest them and not so good recollecting other things which don’t interest them. If you do have problem remembering something(assuming you don’t have any physical disease)-it is usually not the fault of your entire memory system but of an inefficient component of one part of your memory system.
Why don’t we remember things at times when we want to remember them badly?
The memory system comprises of encoding , storing & recollecting the information. If we don’t pay sufficient attention at the of time encoding the information  it is very likely we will face problems in recollecting that information. Association is a good method of storing information. The more the information is repeated or used, better it is stored.  If you have ever tried to remember something( a friend’s name) one time and could not, but then later(after the friend left) you remember his name, it could be that there was a mismatch between retrieval cues and the encodings of the name you were looking for. Moreover subconscious mind cannot be accessed by force or by will. It can be accessed by a relaxing way.

How does one develop his memory?

Asanas: The inverted postures(like sirsasana, halasana, sarvangasana) nourish the brain with increased blood supply and supply of oxygen to the cells that help in developing memory:

Pranayama: Deep breathing exercises that help in the increased flow of prana and oxygen to the body parts and the brain, enhancing memory power

Meditation: Helps to clear the mind of unwanted thoughts and reduces excessive thinking. It is said that excessive thinking saps the mental energy of a person. Daily meditation helps to keep the mind calm and free of tension. Meditation on the third eye(activates the frontal lobes of the brain which is connected with the memory function) or on the point between the eyebrows helps to activate the brain and develop memory power.
Having moderate diet, exercise & rest helps one to have better memory. Smoking or drinking too much speed up memory decline. Having a positive attitude and stimulating environment encourages better memory.

What are the effects of ageing on memory?

Researchers  suspect that ageing causes major cell loss in the frontal lobes that leads to a drop in the production of a neurotransmitter(a chemical) called Acetylcholine which is important for learning and memory. Hippocampus loses 5% of its neurons with each passing decade. Moreover brain itself shrinks and becomes less efficient as you age. However doing yogasanas, pranayama and meditation regularly will help in having efficient memory even at the old age.

References for this post(courtesy) :
3.Tattvabodha commentary by Swami Tejomayananda

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