Many yoga enthusiasts believe their practice to be the perfect balancing act. It is unusual to find one activity that will get you in good physical, spiritual, and emotional condition. Nevertheless, will becoming a dedicated yogi actually improve your brain function?
Research is emerging that indicates yoga has the potential to strengthen your brain. Neha Gothe is a professor of kinesiology, which led him to become curious if one could differentiate between yoga and other forms of movement as a means of boosting cognitive function.
Therefore, he conducted a study at the University of Illinois while still a graduate student there. In this experiment, he engaged 30 female students in two types of movement. They were required to participate in 20 minutes of yoga and at another time 20 minutes of aerobic activity.
His researchers issued cognitive tests to the women after each type of exercise, and results clearly showed improved brain function with both the speed of response, as well as the accuracy of response. Gothe published his results in The Journal of Physical Activity and Health.
Another group of researchers found a connection between yoga and the neurotransmitter GABA. Neurotransmitters are the chemical substances released to the brain to create communication between the brain and the body. GABA is one of the inhibitory types, which are responsible for calming the brain.
Chris Streeter, along with his colleagues at Boston University School of Medicine conducted one study addressing the effect of yoga on GABA. The research published in 2010, divided subjects into a walking group and a yoga group for a period of 12 weeks. At the end of the study, the yoga group had increased levels of GABA, which researchers determined led to improved mood and decreased anxiety.
Other studies have shown a correlation between yoga and academic performance, so it seems conclusive that yoga is a powerful tonic for the brain. This could be good news for parents of children who suffer from ADHD or other learning disorders that require medications.
As it becomes clear that movement combined with meditation and breathing can effectively boost focus and cognitive function, it opens up a new realm of treatment options for those suffering from mild brain dysfunctions.
Perhaps it will soon be possible to introduce yoga as a way to rewire the brain naturally. In time, this could lead to a decrease in pharmaceutical treatments for disorders such as depression and ADHD.
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