Yoga, Moving Meditation Keeps the Mind Sharp
The practice of Yoga has many benefits, it provides the physical benefits of low impact exercise, and may also help stave off cognitive decline. That according to a recent study of older adults with early warning signs of waning memory.
It has mental, emotional and spiritual benefits that can be helpful for those struggling with stress-related health problems.
Yoga is seen as a form of moving meditation that demands full attention as you gently shift your body from one position to another.
As you learn new ways of moving and responding to your body, mind and emotions may shift and change too. In a sense, you not only become more physically flexible, but your mental outlook and approach to life may gain some flexibility.
Studies demonstrate that physical activity helps keep the mind sharp with age, and this goes for activities such as yoga. Overall, inactivity is enemy #1 if you seek to optimize your cognitive function.
According to The New York Times: “There also is growing evidence that combining physical activity with meditation might intensify the benefits of both pursuits.
In an interesting study … people with depression who meditated before they went for a run showed greater improvements in their mood than people who did either of those activities alone.
But many people do not have the physical capacity or taste for running or other similarly vigorous activities. So for the new study … researchers … decided to test whether yoga, a relatively mild, meditative activity, could alter people’s brains and fortify their ability to think.
They began by recruiting 29 middle-aged and older adults … who … were anxious about the state of their memories and who, during evaluations … were found to have mild cognitive impairment, a mental condition that can be a precursor to eventual dementia.
The volunteers also underwent a sophisticated type of brain scan that tracks how different parts of the brain communicate with one another.”
The participants were divided into two groups. One group enrolled in a brain-training program consisting of mental exercises for one hour per week. They were also asked to practice at home for 15 mins a day.
The 2nd group participated in a Kundalini yoga class for 1 hour per week. They were also taught Kirtan Kriya meditation, which involves the use of mantras and fluid hand movements. They were asked to practice this meditation at home for 15 mins each day.
After 12 weeks, all subjects again underwent cognitive tests and brain scans. Overall, all participants had improved to some degree, but the yoga group not only fared better on memory tests, they also reported improvements in their mood.
As reported in the featured article: “The brain scans in both groups displayed more communication now between parts of their brains involved in memory and language skills.
Those who had practiced yoga, however, also had developed more communication between parts of the brain that control attention, suggesting a greater ability now to focus and multitask.
In effect, yoga and meditation had equaled and then topped the benefits of 12 weeks of brain training. ‘We were a bit surprised by the magnitude’ of the brain effects, said Dr. Helen Lavretsky … who oversaw the study.”
The Big Q: Why is yoga so good for the brain?
The Big A: Over the years, a number of studies have honed in on the brain benefits of yoga.
For example, studies have found that:
- Twenty minutes of Hatha yoga improves your brain function to a greater degree than 20 mins of aerobic exercise. Potential mechanisms include enhanced self-awareness and reduced stress.
- Yoga helps improve mental health, including psychiatric disorders like depression, anxiety, attention-deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and schizophrenia. Some of the studies suggest yoga can have a similar effect to antidepressants and psychotherapy.
- Yoga helps improve teenagers’ emotional resilience and ability to manage anger. When students hone these skills, they are not only happier and healthier emotionally, but are also better able to focus on academics.
- By improving stress-related imbalances in your nervous system, yoga can help relieve a range of symptoms found in common mental health disorders.
Researchers also believe yoga can be helpful for conditions like epilepsy, chronic pain, depression, anxiety and PTSD by increasing brain chemicals like gamma amino-butyric acid (GABA).
Yoga and other simple restorative exercises tone and strengthen our body, increase circulation and oxygen flow, energize us for the day and helps unwind in the evening.
Studies support the use of yoga to strengthen brain function along with many other health benefits, including pain relief and increased flexibility and strength.
It is important to incorporate exercises into our daily routine for optimal health, that along with eating Real Food.
Eat healthy, Be healthy, Live lively.