- Yoga and cognitive abilities of the brain
The first major study on the influence of yoga on cognitive functions was a meta-analysis, and affected not only the exercises themselves, but also meditation – an integral component of yoga. Cognitive functions are a person's ability to understand, learn, study, perceive and process information. This is the work of the central nervous system, without which a person's identity is lost.
According to the results of the study, it was noted that meditation has a positive effect on strengthening mental well-being, increasing attention and improving other cognitive abilities. The analysis also showed positive effects of meditation on concentration, memory, executive functions, speed and quality of information processing in a group of people diagnosed with general cognitive decline and degenerative diseases.
Meditation also provided a certain result in the treatment of negative symptoms of schizophrenia, after which many scientists began to recommend it as an addition to pharmacotherapy.
As for yoga as a physical activity, the analysis confirmed that in many cases it proved to be very effective as an additional factor in reducing stress, symptoms of depression, increasing the ability to regulate emotions, improving mood, well-being and overall quality of life.
Another important study on the effects of yoga on the brain was done a couple of years ago by scientists from the Illinois Department of Public Health, the results of which were published in the journal Brain Plasticity.
The authors analyzed data from 11 studies that examined the relationship between regular yoga classes and brain health. Five different studies compared the state of the brain of people who did not practice yoga at first, and then attended regular workouts for 10 to 24 weeks.
The subjects practiced hatha yoga, meditation, and breathing exercises. In other groups, the differences in the brains of those who practice yoga and those who have never done it were studied. In each group, different brain imaging technologies (MRI, functional MRI or single-photon emission CT) were used for analysis.
According to the results of the analysis, cognitive abilities and yoga have a direct connection. People who have been practicing yoga for at least two years have an increase in the volume of the hippocampus – a part of the brain, a paired structure that is located in the temporal hemispheres, performs the role of short-term memory and is responsible for further translation of information into long-term memory. The hippocampus is directly related to the ability to learn, so when it is damaged, a person experiences memory loss.
This discovery gave scientists a reason to claim that yoga is an excellent prevention of Alzheimer's disease, dementia. Therefore, yoga is for beginners
even in adulthood, it is an opportunity to give your brain a chance to work properly.
In addition, science also confirms the influence of regular yoga practice on the
development of the amygdala and the prefrontal cortex of the brain – areas that are responsible for a person's ability to think critically, manage and plan for the future.