Yoga se hi hoga! And this time this clarion call is not just for your body but for your brain too.
Yes ladies, you’ve heard it right. According to a study at the University of Illinois, yoga enhances nerve connections in many of the brain regions that benefit from aerobic exercise.
The researchers reviewed 11 research papers and found that five of them engaged individuals with no background in yoga in one or more sessions per week over a period of 10-24 weeks.
The brain health of the participants was compared at the beginning and at the end of the intervention. They measured cognitive differences between individuals who regularly practised yoga and those who didn’t using brain-imaging techniques such as MRI.
The current findings, published in the journal Brain Plasticity, revealed some of the brain regions that consistently come up in the study.
Neha Gothe, study co-author from the University of Illinois, said “For example, we see increases in the volume of the hippocampus with yoga practice”. According to Gothe, earlier studies looking at the brain effects of aerobic exercise have shown a similar increase in hippocampus size over time.
She said the hippocampus is involved in memory processing and is known to shrink with age.
It is also the structure that is first affected by dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Yoga for emotional well-being and better decision making
The current study also noted that the amygdala — a brain structure that contributes to emotional regulation that tends to be larger in yoga practitioners.
“The prefrontal cortex, a brain region just behind the forehead, is essential to planning, decision-making, multitasking, thinking about your options and picking the right option,” explained study co-author Jessica Damoiseaux from Wayne State University in the US..
The researchers added that since yoga is not aerobic in nature, there could be other mechanisms leading to these brain changes. “So far, we don’t have the evidence to identify what those mechanisms are,” Gothe said.
She suspects that enhancing emotional regulation is key to the positive effects yoga has on the brain. According to Gothe, stress in humans and animals is linked to shrinkage of the hippocampus, and poorer performance on tests of memory.
The researchers believe there is a need for more rigorous, large intervention studies on yoga that engage participants for months, matching yoga groups with active control groups, and measure changes in their brain and performance on cognitive tests.
Now you know why everyone is going gaga about this ancient technique.
So, gear up ladies and start practicing yoga – NOW!
With inputs from PTI