"Yoga for a Better Brain: How Yoga Practice Improves Brain Health and Function"
Yoga is a popular mind and body practice that originated in Indian philosophy. Its focus on breathing practices and meditation has been shown to bring mental benefits, such as reduced anxiety and depression. But what may surprise you is that yoga can also improve your brain function.
When you lift weights, your muscles get stronger and bigger. When you do yoga, your brain cells develop new connections, and changes occur in brain structure as well as function, resulting in improved cognitive skills, such as learning and memory. Think of it as weightlifting for the brain.
Studies using MRI scans and other brain imaging technology have shown that people who regularly practiced yoga had a thicker cerebral cortex and hippocampus compared to non-practitioners. These areas of the brain typically shrink as you age, but the older yoga practitioners showed less shrinkage than those who did no yoga. This suggests that yoga may counteract age-related declines in memory and other cognitive skills.
Research also shows that yoga and meditation may improve executive functions, such as reasoning, decision making, memory, learning, reaction time, and accuracy on tests of mental acuity.
In addition to cognitive benefits, yoga can also affect mood by elevating levels of a brain chemical called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which is associated with better mood and decreased anxiety. Meditation reduces activity in the system—the part of the brain dedicated to emotions—resulting in a more tempered response when faced with stressful situations.
Traditional remedies for depression and anxiety include drugs and talk therapy, but complementary approaches, such as yoga, also provide help. A review of 15 studies published in the journal Ageing and Mental Health looked at the effect of various relaxation techniques on depression and anxiety in older adults. While all the techniques provided some benefit, yoga and music were the most effective for both depression and anxiety. Yoga also appeared to provide the longest-lasting effect.
Yoga has also been found to help with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as an add-on treatment. It can reduce intrusive memories and emotional arousal and produce calmer, steadier breathing, which is associated with calmer states because it helps activate the parasympathetic nervous system.
A number of studies examining the effects of yoga on brain structures, function, and cerebral blood flow have shown promising evidence that yoga may hold promise to mitigate age-related and neurodegenerative declines. The studies collectively demonstrate a positive effect of yoga practice on the structure and/or function of the hippocampus, amygdala, prefrontal cortex, cingulate cortex, and brain networks, including the default mode network (DMN).
As the scientific evidence for the physical and mental health benefits of yoga continues to grow, it's clear that yoga is not just good for the body, but also for the brain.
Anyone can practice yoga at any age weight or level of fitness all you need to do its start your practice.
Wishing you good health and a happy body.