Hatha Yoga Boosts Brain Functions

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By Sarah Thomas | August 21, 2014 9:11 AM EST

Yoga is known to rejuvenate the body and mind; it was also practiced by a lot of individuals for weight loss. And several saw positive results on their bodies. The physical benefits of yoga are not new to anybody and a recent study found that apart from the physical benefits, yoga has an impact on the brain abilities.

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A staff member from Ocean Park hold her ears during a Laughter Yoga class in Hong Kong July 10, 2014. Consultancy firm Inspire 2 Aspire run Laughter Yoga classes for corporations which partner Mahesh Pamnani believes ease stress and increases productivity and creativity among staff. Laughter Yoga was first developed 1995 in Mumbai, India by Dr. Madan Kataria, and has over 600 clubs in 60 countries, according to Laughter Yoga International.

The findings are published in the Journal of Gerontology Series A: Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences. The study found out that one particular type of yoga, called Hatha yoga, improves cognitive performance in elderly.

If Hatha yoga is practiced diligently for eight weeks, it was seen that it has a huge impact on a person's cognitive abilities, making him sharper, increasing his memory and speed of remembering things. Hatha yoga involves a lot of physical movement. For the study, 108 adults with an age between 55 and 79 were made to practice Hatha yoga for eight weeks. Almost half of them were familiar with yoga and had attended yoga classes in the past.

Only 62 volunteers were made to perform Hatha yoga while the others were given toning and stretching exercises. After eight weeks, it was seen that those who practiced Hatha yoga were able to recall more information, could do multi task and had mental flexibility compared to those who are involved in stretching and toning exercises. There was an improvement in the mental abilities of the 61 adults who were practicing yoga for the given period of time; the cognitive abilities of the others were the same as before the test.

In a statement said by Edward McAuley, a professor at the University of Illinois and co-author of the study, "Participants in the yoga intervention group showed significant improvements in working thier memory capacity, which involves continually updating and manipulating information." They also showed accuracy and a high concentration level in the tasks they performed. "These mental functions are relevant to our everyday functioning, as we do multi tasking and planning our day-to-day activities," he added.

He also stated that the adults did not differ in age, gender or any other aspects such as social status. Neha Gothe, who led the study, said that along with the physical movements there was a lot of meditation and breathing that was involved as the participants practiced the postures.

"It is possible that this focus on one's body, mind and breath during yoga practice may have generalized to situations outside of the yoga classes, resulting in an improved ability to sustain attention," Mc Auley said.

The study gives a scientific proof to the already known benefits of yoga. The yoga masters of the east have always claimed that yoga comes with these benefits. Researchers are of the opinion that further studies are required to understand the mechanisms of the brain.

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(Photo: Reuters / Bobby Yip)
A staff member from Ocean Park hold her ears during a Laughter Yoga class in Hong Kong July 10, 2014. Consultancy firm Inspire 2 Aspire run Laughter Yoga classes for corporations which partner Mahesh Pamnani believes ease stress and increases productivity and creativity among staff. Laughter Yoga was first developed 1995 in Mumbai, India by Dr. Madan Kataria, and has over 600 clubs in 60 countries, according to Laughter Yoga International.
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