Yoga fans rejoice; your weekly routine doesn’t just improve your physical form, but also your mind as well, according to a new study. Research in The New York Times says that even practising one yoga routine a week combined with a little meditating, may strengthen thinking skills and help to stave off ageing-related mental decline. As we age, it seems inevitable that our memory can begin to worsen (because there’s no way you left your car keys in your jacket) but a myriad of recent research suggests that people who run, weight train, dance, or practice tai chi have a lower risk of developing dementia than people who are not physically active at all, and now, yoga has been added to the mix.
The study looked at older adults with early signs of memory problems and researchers from the University of California Los Angeles, along with other institutions, tested whether yoga could alter people’s brains. The volunteers were divided into two groups. One began a well-established brain-training programme that involved an hour a week of classroom time and a series of mental exercises designed to bolster their memory that volunteers were asked to practice at home for about 15 minutes a day.
After 12 weeks, while both groups saw improvement, those who practiced yoga and meditation not only saw improved thinking skills – they also showed improvement in their moods and memory retention. So, 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, Dr. Helen Lavretsky, a professor of psychiatry at U.C.L.A., who oversaw the study told The New York Times. While researchers weren’t fully sure why yoga and meditation had uniquely changed the volunteers’ brains, they pointed out that reductions in stress hormones and anxiety were likely to have played a substantial role, because everyone who took part in the study was worried about their minds to begin with.
“Movement also increases the levels of various biochemicals in the muscles and brains that are associated with improved brain health,” she added.
It was concluded that this combination of meditation and yoga was especially potent when it came to bulking up the brain, and should you want to try it for yourself, The Alzheimer’s Research and Prevention Foundation (which partially funded the study), has information on its website about how to start meditating in this style.
So if you’ve been putting that yoga class off, go for it. Your mind and body will soon see the benefits.