Yoga Shown to Boost Brain Function in Older Adults

If you want to boost your brain power well into old age, try doing hatha yoga a few times a week. A new studysuggests that hatha yoga not only helps you relax, but also may boost brain function in older adults.
According to a new study by the University of Illinois, sedentary older adults who began practicing hatha yoga three times a week for eight weeks performed better on cognitive tasks than those who did simple stretching and toning exercises.
For the study, researchers observed 108 adults between the ages of 55 and 79. About half did hatha yoga classes and the other half spent the same amount of time doing stretching and toning exercises instead of yoga.
At the end of the eight weeks, the group that practiced yoga three times a week was speedier and more accurate on tests of information recall, mental flexibility and task-switching than it had been before the intervention. The stretching and toning group saw no significant change in cognitive performance over time. The researchers reported that the group characteristics could not account for the differences since they were similar in age, gender and social status.
According to the researchers, the results suggest that yoga has an immediate and quieting effect on the body’s response to stress. Because stress and anxiety can affect cognitive performance, the yoga intervention may have improved the participants’ focus by reducing their stress levels.
And while the mechanisms are not known, being able to perform one task at a time quickly without getting distracted is relevant to our everyday lives as we plan our activities and multitask.
Benefits of Hatha Yoga
Yoga has many styles, forms and intensities. It is a mind-body practice that combines meditation and focused breathing while an individual moves through a series of postures. Hatha yoga is one of the most popular forms and is the most basic. Yoga has been shown to reduce stress, decrease depression, lower blood pressure and improve heart function. The best thing is that almost anyone can do it.
Incorporating Yoga Into Your Life
Although you can learn yoga from books and videos, beginners usually find it helpful to learn with an instructor. Classes also offer camaraderie and friendship, which are also important to overall well-being. Look for a yoga practice that gives you a sense of becoming more flexible without painful stretching. It should make you feel stronger without any feeling of tension or stress and should give you energy rather than exhausting you. Afterwards you should feel calm and relaxed and like you have had a good rest.
Incorporating “smart foods” into your diet is another way to keep your brain healthy as you age. (insert link to brain food article).  So after your yoga class, refuel with some brain boosting foods.