Yoga is good for the brain, experts find

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Researchers say it can boost overall brain function and aid emotional regulation

While recent studies have found that aerobic exercise can be beneficial for consumers’ thinking and memory skills, a new study conducted by researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign found that another type of workout can be good for the brain: yoga. 

According to the researchers, practicing yoga is not only beneficial for giving consumers a physical workout. It can also provide emotional and mindfulness benefits as well.

“In one of my previous studies, we were looking at how yoga changes the cortisol stress response,” said researcher Neha Gothe. “We found that those who had done yoga for eight weeks had an attenuated cortisol response to stress that was associated with better performance on tests of decision-making, task-switching, and attention. 

“The practice of yoga helps improve emotional regulation to reduce stress, anxiety, and depression,” she added. “And that seems to improve brain functioning.” 

Boosting brain health

The researchers looked at nearly a dozen different studies, some of which focused on seasoned yoga practitioners and others that analyzed how beginner yogis fared with the practice. All of the participants involved had their brains scanned so the researchers could determine the effect that practicing yoga had on different regions of the brain. 

Ultimately, the researchers learned that the brain responds to yoga much in the same way it responds to more rigorous exercise. The participants saw improvements in their memory and had better overall cognitive functioning. 

Gothe explained that practicing yoga led the participants’ hippocampuses to increase in size, an effect that is similar to the benefits gained by those who frequently engage in aerobic exercise. As the part of the brain that processes memories, keeping the hippocampus sharp is key, especially when preventing conditions like Alzheimer’s or dementia

Because of these promising findings, the researchers are hopeful that more work can be done in this area so experts can discover just how powerful yoga can be for consumers. 

“The science is pointing to yoga being beneficial for healthy brain function, but we need more rigorous and well-controlled intervention studies to confirm these initial findings,” said researcher Jessica Damoiseaux. 

Other benefits of yoga

A recent study found that hot yoga, a practice that sets the temperature of the room to around 105 degrees Fahrenheit, could be beneficial for consumers looking to lower their blood pressure. 

According to researchers, those who engaged in hot yoga classes three times a week for 12 weeks experienced improved stress levels and lower blood pressure readings. 

“The results of our study start the conversation that hot yoga could be feasible and effective in terms of reducing blood pressure without medication,” said Dr. Stacy Hunter. “However, larger studies need to be done before we can say with confidence that hot yoga has a positive impact on blood pressure.”

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