Yoga has been there for centuries. It transforms human health by a great deal. It plays a key role in mental as well as physical well-being of a person. Yoga practices are low-impact exercises which have numerous benefits. Apart from physical benefits, it prevents cognitive decline, according to recent studies done on elders with early onset of waning memory.
Yoga has mental as well as emotional benefits. It helps people struggling with different stress-related health issues. Yoga can also be described as moving meditation which requires the full attention of a person as the person’s body changes from one asana to another. With moving body parts, the mind, as well as emotions, also shift. Yoga doesn’t only make a person’s body more flexible but changes a person’s outlook and his approach towards life which also requires a great deal of flexibility. Pranayama is one of the yogic exercises which helps in meditation and changes a person’s perspective. It makes a positive impact on a person’s psyche and influences him towards mental stability.
Along with various benefits, Yoga helps in preventing cognitive decline. Many studies have proved that any physical activity can certainly change the mind and sharpen it with the passing of time. Same thing goes for Yoga. To improve and optimize cognitive functions, a person should remain active.
As per the recent article from The New York Times, there are various supporting evidence that when a person combines physical activity with a certain form of meditation, it may complement and increase their benefits.
According to a recent study, people who were suffering from depression, when meditated before going for a run, showed more improvements in their mood in comparison which people who didn’t do either of these things.
But in case of few people, they don’t have the physical capacity or interest in physical exercises or activities like running. To find its impact, researchers tested whether yoga, which is a mild and meditative activity, can alter a person’s brain and fortifies his ability to think clearly.
They recruited few people of middle to old ages who were concerned about their memory state and during evaluations were found with mild cognitive impairment, which is a mental condition which shows the early signs of dementia. These people underwent a brain scan of a sophisticated type which tracks how various sections of the brain communicate with each other.
The participants were duly divided into two groups. One started with a brain-training program which consisted of various mental exercises for one hour for each day in the week. They were also asked to these exercises at home for about 15 minutes each day.
The other group practices Kundalini Yoga for one hour, each day a week. They also learned Kirtan Kriya meditation which consists of usage of different mantras as well as fluid hand movements. They were also asked to do these activities at home for 15 minutes, every day.
After 12 weeks of this regime, all the participants underwent cognitive tests as well as brain scans, again. While the entire set of people showed improvement to a certain degree, the people who performed yoga performed better on memory tests as well as shown great improvements in their mood. In the article from The New Your Times, they highlighted that the brain scans conducted on both groups showed better communication between different parts of their brains which involve memory as well as language skills. The group which did yoga, however, showed better communication between those parts of the brain which control attention. This suggests that they had greater ability to focus as well as multitask.
Over the years, various studies were conducted to find the brain benefits of yoga. Some of them are mentioned below:
1. Twenty minutes of doing Hatha yoga significantly improves the brain function which includes speed as well as the accuracy of mental processing, by a greater degree, in comparison with 20 minutes of aerobic exercise such as jogging. Potential mechanisms also consist of more self-awareness as well as reduced stress level.
2. Yoga helps in improving mental health which includes various psychiatric disorder such as depression, ADHD or attention-deficit-hyperactivity disorder, anxiety, schizophrenia, and PTSD or post-traumatic stress disorder.
3. Some studies revealed that yoga has similar effects to antidepressants as well as psychotherapy.
4. Yoga also showed improved emotional resilience among the teenagers and their ability to manage anger. As per an expert, the frontal lobes of the brain which process language and reason, are still in development during adolescence. This leaves the teenagers to highly rely on their amygdala which is responsible for emotions. This malleability of the brain during adolescence marks a critical and crucial stage in the cognitive as well as emotional development. However, due to some luck, the researchers are now able to make a better picture of various factors which allow the students to perform better in high school and into their adulthood, like self-awareness, empathy, managing distressing emotions and also navigating the relationships smoothly. By honing these skills, the students become happier as well as emotionally healthier which allows them to better focus on the academics.
5. By means of improving various stress-related imbalances present in the nervous system, yoga can play a major role in relieving a wide range of symptoms which are found in general mental health disorder.
According to many researchers, yoga can be quite beneficial for people suffering from chronic pain, epilepsy, depression, PTSD and anxiety by significantly increasing certain brain chemicals such as gamma amino-butyric acid or popularly known as GABA.
6. Other studies have revealed that regular yoga practice can provide numerous physical, emotional as well as mental benefits. Yoga can actually alter genetic expression.
Yoga can improve immune functions as well as sleep. It also reduces the risk of migraines. It helps in reducing the risk of hypertension along with heart disease. It brings down cortisol, the stress hormone by regulating HPA or hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal which calms the sympathetic nervous system. It also improves the sexual performance and increases the satisfaction level.
Yoga and different restorative exercises effectively tone and strengthen the body. They improve the flow and energize the body for the day and helps the person in unwinding in the evening. Various studies have proved that use of yoga can improve brain function and also make a huge positive impact in common psychiatric disorders. It also provides different health benefits which include pain relief as well as increased flexibility and strength.
In general, it is important to incorporate a wide range of exercise into the routine for getting optimal results. The person should have comprehensive fitness program which has resistance training along with core-building and flexibility exercises such as yoga. Yoga provides a huge improvement in different cognitive functions of the brain. It not only improves the language and reason part of the brain but also provides emotional stability. It regulates various hormones in the body which affect the mood. It also helps in improving brain functions and decision making of the person.