Just in case you needed another reason to unwind with yoga or meditation, a new study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease has your back.
Neuroscientists have found that adopting a weekly yoga and meditation routine improves thinking skills and could even prevent cognitive decline over time. Of course, age isn’t the only factor that can cause forgetfulness or lost car keys -- lifestyle and how you move your body on a regular basis also plays a role. For this reason, taking time to hit the mental “pause” button, alleviating stress and re-centering yourself and your intentions for the day could prove to be incredibly beneficial.
In other words, it’s time you open your inner heart chakra to the possibility that yoga and meditation aren’t just for hipsters and monks. Your thinking ability may depend on it.
To make this determination, researchers tested how yoga affected the brains of 25 participants over the age of 55 who were concerned about their memory capacity. Most reported some type of cognitive ailment, and all were monitored with brain scans.
The subjects were divided into two groups for 12 weeks. One group had a weekly hour-long training program consisting of memory exercises, paired with 20 minutes of practice for homework. The other group dedicated an hour a week to studying Kundalini yoga with breathing exercises, meditation and various poses. They also learned Kirtan Kriya meditation, which incorporates sounds and hand movements, and practiced for 20 minutes each day.
By the end of the study, all subjects showed improvement in brain function. But only those who did yoga and meditation showed a difference in mood. In fact, the difference and overall impact was much more significant than researchers had anticipated.
“We were a bit surprised by the magnitude” of the cognitive effects, says Dr. Helen Lavretsky, a professor of psychiatry at UCLA who oversaw the study, in a New York Times article.
Despite the small sample size for this study, the findings are in line with other research about yoga and well-being. A study published in Translational Psychiatry earlier this year found regular yoga and meditation could help people with depression, especially if they meditated in conjunction with a workout.
Several successful executives, such as Jessica Dilullo Herrin, CEO and founder of Stella & Dot, have adopted routines that involve beginning (and in some cases ending) the day with yoga, meditation and exercise.
How or even why the practice makes a difference in mood and cognitive function is still impossible to tell. One thing’s clear though -- yoga studios and spiritual entrepreneurs are going to have a field day with this one.