Yoga Effects on Brain Health

Scientists from the University of Illinois (USA) analyzed the results of 11 studies on the effects of yoga on the brain and the prevention of age-related neurodegenerative diseases. More than 300 people took part in the studies, the duration of the studies was from 10 to 24 weeks. Only people over 65 years of age participated in five studies. In nine studies, participants were engaged in hatha yoga (a combination of physical activity, breathing and meditation), in two - kundalini yoga (physical activity, breathing, mantras). All studies used the MRI procedure to assess brain changes. 

In almost all cases, the specialists who conducted the study found similar changes in the brain. It was observed that hippocampal size increased of those subjects, who were training, an area responsible for memory and playing a key role in the development of Alzheimer's disease. An increase in the prefrontal cortex responsible for decision-making, choice of the right options, multitasking and planning were also identified. In addition, there are large amygdala, a center of emotional regulation, and other areas responsible for memory and the ability to "think about oneself". 

Experts note that regular yoga classes have a similar effect on the brain as a positive effect of aerobic loads, the effectiveness of which in preventing age-related changes in the brain is proven by research. At the same time during yoga practices the body works in a completely different mode than during jumps or running, so the mechanism of influence on the brain should be different. 

Scientists suppose that the main "lever" of yoga influence on the brain is the improvement of emotional regulation. So, after 8 weeks of training people start to produce less cortisol in stressful situations, respectively, the person quickly returns to a calm state. Researchers emphasize that regular yoga practices increase resistance to stress, reduce anxiety and prevent depression. Experts believe that these are the factors that lead to changes in the brain, similar to the effect of aerobic exercises, which can prevent the progression of age-related changes in the brain. 

Dec. 13, 2019, 11:07 a.m.

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