It’s common knowledge that practicing yoga has many benefits. In addition to enhancing our physical and spiritual well-being, yoga also helps us achieve a calm, relaxed and centered state.
Yet, is it possible that yoga might actually make us smarter as well? According to results obtained from a recent study— yes it can!
Not long ago, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign put this hypothesis to the test. A group of 30 young female college students were asked to perform 20 minutes of yoga followed by deep breathing and meditation as well as exercise aerobically for 20 minutes on a treadmill. Following both the yoga and the treadmill workouts, the participants completed mental tasks that tested their ability to maintain focus and absorb, hold on to and utilize new information. (These skills are beneficial for everything ranging from recalling pertinent facts and data necessary for crucial exams to remembering the simple everyday things such as recollecting where the misplaced keys are.)
The findings demonstrated that the participants performed significantly better immediately after the yoga session than after moderate to vigorous aerobic exercise lasting the same duration. This is an exciting discovery as aerobic exercise has already been determined to have positive effects on the brain.
Lead researcher, Neha Gothe stated, “Yoga’s focus on mindfulness may be an important factor. The breathing and meditative exercises aim at calming the mind and body and keeping distracting thoughts away while you focus on your body, posture or breath. Maybe these processes translate beyond yoga practice when you try to perform mental tasks or day-to-day activities.”
Regardless of what promoted the beneficial effect, the results produced measurable positive outcomes that will open the door to testing this theory with many other populations. In fact, similar positive findings are occurring with older adults as well.
Here is the yoga routine utilized in the study:
- Standing Forward Bend (Uttanasana) 1 minute
- Tree Pose (Vrikshasana) 1 minute
- Triangle Pose (Trikonasaana) 2 minutes
- Reverse Triangle Pose (Parivrtta Trikonasana) 2 minutes
- Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Shvanasana) 2 minutes
- Easy Camel Pose (Ustrasana) 2 minutes
- Hare Pose (Shashankasana) 2 minutes
- Sun Salutation (Suryanamaskar) 4 minutes
- Deep Breathing in Lotus Pose (Padmasana Pranayama) 4 minutes
We can all practice this simple yoga routine daily for 20 minutes. Our brains will thank us for it.
How fantastic is this— in addition to all of the reasons why we choose to do yoga and for all of the benefits we achieve from our practice, isn’t it fabulous to know that not only are we getting better… we are getting smarter as well!