BRAIN HEALTH | 6.22.2015 | BY DAYA ALEXANDER GRANT, Ph.D., M.S.
Yesterday (June 21) was the 1st annual International Day of Yoga, which was established by the U.N. General Assembly in 2014 after an address by Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, in which he said, “[Yoga] embodies unity of mind and body; thought and action; restraint and fulfillment; harmony between man and nature; a holistic approach to health and well-being. It is not about exercise, but to discover the sense of oneness within yourself, the World, and nature”.
So how does yoga benefit the brain? The ways are endless, and will be discussed throughout future LYB tips. But one way is its association with a bigger brain. Sure, bigger isn’t always better, but it’s hard to argue against the benefit of more brain cells!
In an MRI study published last month in Frontiers of Human Neuroscience, researchers showed that yogis had greater gray matter volume (indicating more neurons, or brain cells) than non-yogi controls. While this only suggests correlation and cannot prove causation, the data also showed that the number of hours of weekly practice correlated with gray matter volume in areas associated with visual processing, sensory reception, and memory. Furthermore, the natural decline in gray matter volume that usually accompanies aging was not observed in yogis, suggesting the potential neuroprotective effect of yoga.
The research on the effects of yoga on the brain is in its infancy, but it’s beginning to demonstrate extraordinary findings.
Remember, yoga meets us exactly where we are and is accessible to everyone. So whether you're a regularly practicing yogi or not, your brain can benefit tremendously from this ancient practice.