Hatha Yoga Improves Brain Function In The Elderly

Sarah Alender
Hatha Yoga Improves Brain Function In The Elderly

A recent study of the over-55 age group has concluded that practicing hatha yoga at least three

times a week may have a positive effect on brainpower.

Neha Gothe, a professor of kinesiology at Wayne State University, and Edward McAuley, a

professor of kinesiology and community health at the University of Illinois, conducted the study,

which lasted for eight weeks and involved 108 adults from age 55 to 79. Of these subjects, 61

attended hatha yoga classes; the others participated in stretching and toning exercises for the

same amount of time each week, but did no yoga.

The Team's Findings

What the team found was remarkable, although likely not surprising to yogis: by the end of the

study, the yoga group’s performance on tasks such as information recall, task-switching, and

mental flexibility had improved. They were faster and more accurate than they had been before

the study began, according to the Daily Mail.

“They were also able to perform the task at hand quickly and accurately, without getting

distracted,” says McAuley. The other group, however, experienced no significant change in

cognitive performance.

“Hatha yoga requires focused effort in moving through the poses, controlling the body and

breathing at a steady rate,” Gothe tells the Daily Mail. “It is possible that this focus on one’s

body, mind and breath during yoga practice may have generalized to situations outside of the

yoga classes, resulting in an improved ability to sustain attention.”

Yoga And Cognitive Performance

Gothe points out that previous studies have shown that yoga has the ability to decrease anxiety,

depression and stress, and says that since these factors can have a negative effect on cognitive

performance, yoga’s relaxing influence may work to counteract the process, thereby improving

brain function.

Hatha yoga encompasses all of the different styles of yoga, including Ashtanga, Vinyasa, and

Iyengar. Today, most people consider hatha yoga to be the most basic and gentle form of yoga,

focused more on stretching and breathing than on attaining difficult poses or going through a

flow series.

It’s known for being slow and relaxing—so the next time you’re feeling stressed or forgetful, try

some hatha yoga and improve your physical and mental flexibility!