BRAIN HEALTH | 3.13.2017 | BY DAYA ALEXANDER GRANT, PH.D., M.S.
With #MindfulMarch in full swing, it is only appropriate that we spend some time on the ancient practice of yoga and its positive effect on the brain.
According to the National Center for Health Statistics, participation in yoga among U.S. adults increased from 5.1% in 2002 to 9.5% in 2015. Why are so many people drawn to this practice? For some, it may be for physical reasons: to increase flexibility, develop muscle strength, or prevent injuries. For others, it may be for spiritual reasons: to re-establish connection with themselves or absorb the energy that a roomful of yogis generates. But for everyone, whether they’re conscious of it or not, the mental effects are enough to keep them coming back.
Neuroscience research is beginning to shed light on the brain-health benefits of yoga:
- A UCLA study showed that 12 minutes of yoga per day for 2 months decreased the immune system’s inflammatory response, which, if over activated, can lead to chronic disease.
- Cognitively, even short, 20-minute yoga sessions may improve the brain’s ability to retain information and focus on one task at a time, according to a study conducted at the University of Illinois.
- Yoga may decrease stress by increasing one’s ability to focus on the present moment, a pillar of any yoga practice. Deep, diaphragmatic breathing also stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which decreases the stress hormone, cortisol.
This month, use #MindfulMarch as an opportunity to do something good for yourself and for others. Look here to find a yoga class near you.