History in Brief
- It has been shown that yoga combats cognitive decline. In a 12-week study, volunteers who did yoga improved their memory and mood more than those who practiced conventional brain exercise
- Practicing yoga regularly has also been shown to have a positive effect on mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, ADHD and schizophrenia.
- Other health benefits of practicing yoga regularly include improving your immune function, reducing the risk of migraines and heart disease, increased sexual performance, better sleep and stress reduction
Low-impact exercises like yoga offer a variety of benefits. Not only can they provide you with the physical benefits of exercise, but yoga could also help you avoid cognitive decline, according to a recent study that was conducted with older adults who had early signs of memory impairment.
Although I believe that most people benefit from high-intensity interval training (HIIT) to enjoy optimal health, there is no doubt that yoga can also be beneficial. It has mental, emotional and even spiritual benefits that can be very useful for those who deal with health problems related to stress.
Yoga can be seen as a form of meditation in motion that demands mindfulness as you gently move your body from one asana (yoga position) to another.
As you learn new ways to move and respond to your body, your mind and emotions may also change and vary. In a sense, not only will you become more physically flexible, but your mental perspective and your attitude to life may also get some necessary flexibility.
Yoga Helps Mitigate Cognitive Decrease
Studies have shown several times that physical activity helps keep the mind lucid with age, and this also applies to activities such as yoga. In general, inactivity is your worst enemy if you want to optimize your cognitive function. According to The New York Times:
Participants were divided into two groups. One group participated in a brain training program that consisted of practicing mental exercises for one hour a week. They were also asked to practice at home for 15 minutes a day.
The second group participated in a Kundalini yoga class for one hour a 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 minutes every day.
Yoga Overcomes Standard Brain Training
After 12 weeks, all participants underwent cognitive tests and brain checks again. In general, all the participants improved to a certain extent, but the yoga group not only fared a bit better in the memory tests, but also reported improvements in their mood. As reported in the article presented:
Why Yoga Is So Beneficial For Your Brain
For years, many studies have focused on the benefits of yoga for the brain. For example, they have found that:
• Twenty minutes of Hatha yoga improves brain function (speed and accuracy of mental processing) to a greater extent than 20 minutes of aerobic exercise (jogging). Possible mechanisms include greater self-awareness and less tension.
• Yoga helps improve mental health, including psychiatric disorders such as depression, anxiety, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and schizophrenia.
Some of the studies suggest that yoga can have an effect similar to that of antidepressants and psychotherapy.
• Yoga helps improve the emotional resilience of adolescents and their ability to manage anger. As the instructor and yoga writer Iona Smith pointed out:
• By improving the imbalances related to the stress of your nervous system, yoga can help relieve a variety of symptoms seen in common mental disorders
Researchers also believe that yoga can be useful to treat diseases such as epilepsy, chronic pain , depression, anxiety and PTSD by increasing brain chemicals such as gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA).
Other Benefits of Yoga for the Mind and the Body
Other studies have shown that practicing yoga regularly can provide a number of different physical, mental and emotional benefits, including those listed below.
An explanation of the powerful effects of yoga is that it actually modifies gene expression – through its beneficial effects on the mind! In fact, the relaxation response triggered by meditation practices has shown that it has an impact on at least 2209 genes.
You may find it surprising that yoga has also been shown to help with weight reduction. In one study, overweight yoga participants lost an average of 5 pounds, while the non-yoga group gained 13 pounds.How Yoga Helps Lose Weight and Promotes Good Health
This result was maintained even when taking into account differences in diet. In general, HIIT is the most effective way to lose weight, and the key to its effectiveness is intensity. So, how can you explain the effectiveness of yoga – which is the opposite of HIIT’s with respect to intensity?
According to Tiffany Field, Ph.D., director of the Touch Research Institute at the Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine at the University of Miami, the benefits of yoga are related to the fact that it does the opposite of the most strenuous exercises .
Instead of increasing your heart rate and stimulating the nervous system, yoga induces you to a parasympathetic state that reduces both blood pressure and heart rate, and this helps to promote a series of positive effects on health.
This makes sense if we take into account the negative biological effects of stress. By promoting systemic inflammation, chronic stress can be a factor in everything from weight gain to hypertension and heart disease.
It has also been shown to trigger the onset of dementia. Even worse, in general, the weight gain induced by stress implies an increase in the fat of the abdomen, which is the most dangerous fat to accumulate in the body, since it increases your risk of developing cardiovascular diseases.
Stress really alters the way fat is deposited due to the hormones and other specific chemicals that the body produces when it is stressed. For example, recent research shows that chronic stress prompts the body to produce beta-trophin, a protein that blocks an enzyme that breaks down body fat.
Therefore, by reducing stress, it reduces inflammation and, along with it, the risk of developing any number of health problems, including ingrained weight.
A review of published clinical studies on yoga I just took in 2011 also concluded that movements of yoga stimulate meters skin tension inducing activity in the brain and vagus nerve, both of which influence the production and release of several hormones.
As the activity of the vagus nerve increases, levels of stress hormones such as cortisol decrease. It also triggers the release of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that not only plays a role in your mood, but also in appetite control and sleep patterns.
The Importance of an Integral Program of Exercises
Yoga and other simple restoration exercises tone and strengthen your body, increase circulation and oxygen flow, energize you during the day and help you relax at night. However, studies support the use of yoga to strengthen brain function and improve common psychiatric disorders (along with many other health benefits, including pain relief and greater flexibility and strength).
I consider it important to incorporate a variety of exercises in your routine to obtain optimal results. Ideally, a comprehensive fitness program that includes training at high intensity and resistance intervals, along with flexibility exercises and core strengthening, such as yoga.
The daily movement without exercise is also important, and just walking more every day can be very useful to avoid many common health problems.