Yoga is even good for your brain
A weekly routine of yoga and meditation can strengthen cognitive abilities and help to ward off the mental decline that results from aging.
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This is shown by a new study in older adults with early signs of memory problems.
After the age of 40, most of us begin to experience that our minds and especially our memories begin to sputter.
Familiar names of family members begin to sputter or we forget where we left the car keys.
Some weakening in the spiritual functions seem to be inevitable with aging.
But new, emerging science suggests that we can curtail and slow down this process, by the way we live and in particular the way we move with our bodies.
People who walk, train with weights, dance, practice tai chi or do regular gardening have a lower risk of developing dementia than people who are not physically active.
There is also increasing evidence that physical activity with meditation can enhance the benefits of both activities.
People with depression who meditated before they went showed great mood improvements than people who only did one of these activities.
But many people do not have the physical ability to run or other similar powerful activities.
For this new study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease in April, researchers at the University of California have decided to test yoga, and whether this can change people’s brains and strengthen their thinking ability.
29 middle-aged adults from the Los Angeles area were recruited.
They told the researchers that they were concerned about the state of their memories.
during evaluations at the University, they were found to have a mild cognitive impairment, a mental illness that is the precursor of dementia.
The volunteers also underwent a sophisticated type of brain scan that tracks how different parts of the brain communicate with each other.
The volunteers were then divided into two groups.
They started an established brain training program of one hour a week and a series of mental exercises designed to strengthen the memory of volunteers. These exercises had to be done at home for 15 minutes per day.
The other group did yoga for a few hours a week.
These yoga exercises also involved breathing exercises, meditation and movement.
The volunteers followed this program for 12 weeks.
Then they returned to the university lab for a new round of cognitive tests and a second brain scan.
By then, all men and women could perform significantly better on most cognitive tests.
But only those who practiced yoga and meditation showed improvements in their moods, they scored lower on the assessment of possible depression than those in the brain training group, and they did much better on a test of the visual-spatial memory.
The brain scans in both groups showed more communication between the parts of the brain that are involved in memory and language skills.
Those who had taken yoga also had more communication between parts of the brain that control attention, suggesting a greater capacity for focus and multitasking.
Yoga and meditation equaled the benefits of 12 weeks of brain training.
Physiologically it was not possible to see how yoga and meditation had changed the brain with this study.
Yet the reduction of stress hormone and anxiety, probably played an important role.
Given all participants worried about the state of their mind.
Movement also increases the levels of different biochemical processes in the muscles and brain that are associated with improved brain health.