Thopukkaranams (in Tamil) also known as "Ketuk Ketampi" in Malay were traditionally performed by Hindus in front of the deity of Lord Ganesha, as part of the worship ritual. This practice involved crossing the arms in the front of the chest, and holding the right ear lobe with the left hand and the left ear lobe with the right hand, and performing a series of squats in front of Lord Ganesha in the temple or the pooja room at home.
It was also widely used in Hindu schools, especially in the old times, as form of punishment for an erring child. The misbehaving child or one who has neglected to do his or her homework, would be asked by the teacher to stand in the corner and do series of Thopukkaranams. This is also practiced in South East Asian countries like Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia. Recently Philippines had banned such practice in schools as they find it as a very cruel mode of punishment.
Now, the western scientists have found that this practice stimulates the brain, and increases and improves intelligence, reduces behavioral problems in children, and minimizes the risks of age-related Alzheimer's disease, Autism and Dementia. The scientific findings were reported in the CBS news in the US, and can be watched below or at youtube.
Some schools in the US, it seems, have adopted the practice of Thopukkaranams in their classrooms to improve the intelligence and academic performance of the school children. It is also being advocated for older people to keep the mind sharp and active.
It is ironic that Hindu society, which came up with so many ancient yogic practices that were often incorporated as part of the daily worship ritual and were known to benefit the mind and body greatly, has discarded these practices because they are viewed as ‘old-fashioned,’ whereas the western societies are discovering these practice and attempting to adopt the same to improve the physical and mental well-being of their people.
Even though we can see a lot of people do this practice in Vinayagar Temples, not many people know how to do it properly. They seems to simply move up and down a few inches. This will not bring any benefits to the practitioners. Most of them are doing it just as a symbol without knowing that there is an actual benefits behind the practice.
The right way of doing this is to breath in through your nose and out from your mouth with the tongue at the roof of the mouth as when you say "zha" as in "Tamizha".
Place your left thumb on the right ear lobe with the thumb facing out. Squat all the way down. Remember to breath out all the down and in on the way up. When you reach either top or the bottom positions, pause your breathing and your movement for a second. Do this 14 times a rep. Its best done twice a day.
As the above report states, it is never too late to start doing Thopukarranams in front of Lord Ganesha, introduce such practices to your children from very early age, and revive such practices in schools.
As per the medical research and subsequent report, doing these special kind of situps while holding the opposite earlobes help stimulate brain power and remember things better.
Hindus have been doing "Super Brain Yoga" for ages in front of temples devoted to Lord Ganesha. In fact, I have observed that while crossing a Ganesha temple on road, most people stop, take off their footwear, perform "Thoppukaranam", and then resume their journey. Lord Ganesha is associated with Knowledge/Memory, a point which is now proved by this research.
But what is saddening is that many of our traditions are being copyrighted by the western world, and the latest point in this case is "Thoppukaranam" being copyrighted as "Super Brain Yoga". What is a very common sight in every Ganesha temple in South India (not sure about North India) has become Super Brain Yoga in the West. Now that, the Westerners have certified the practice to be yielding both physical and intellectual benefits, our folks can begin to look at the practice as a scientific one. Cheers to the slavish mentality, which we Indians have not left even though when "the White Masters" have.