Yogees have long touted the physical as well as mental benefits of partaking in yoga sessions, however until recently, research had only been able to back up the former. New research lead by Professor Neha Gothe at the University of Illinois has now given credence to the latter as well.
The authors sought to examine the relationship between yoga and cognitive functions, and they also did so in comparison with a more well studied form of exercise, namely aerobics.
By cognitive functions, we are referring to the mental processes such as attention, commicative abilities such as language production and comprehension, reasoning, abstract problem solving, and decision making.
The study, which was published in the Journal of Physical Activity and Health, utilized thirty volunteers who were subjected to three testing sessions: a baseline assessment, a yoga session, and a aerobic exercise session.
The yoga session was a Hatha yoga session and was comprised of a steady progression from sitting, to standing, to supine yoga postures over the course of 20 minutes. The ‘yogees’ were instructed to regulate their breathing and fished the session with meditating and further deep breathing.
The aerobic session on the other hand had the subjects engage in a 20 minute cardio session on a treadmill. The aerobic exercise had the runners maintain a steady heart rate that was to be no less than 60% and no more than 70% of their max.
After each exercise session, their cognitive functions were tested and assessed.
..yoga had effectively increased the participant’s cognitive abilities compared to the established baseline value.
The authors of the study found that yoga had effectively increased the participant’s cognitive abilities compared to the established baseline value, while the aerobic exercise had not.
According to Prof. Gothe:
The breathing and meditative exercises aim at calming the mind and body and keeping distracting thoughts away while you focus on your body, posture or breath. Maybe these processes translate beyond yoga practice when you try to perform mental tasks or day-to-day activities.
While the researchers were unable to assert a diffinitive answer with respect to why yoga was able to improve cognitive abilities, they did put forth some hypotheses. One suggestion was that an increased self-awareness resulting from the exercise played a role, while another thought that the increased cognitive abilities were an indirect result of decreased stress and anxiety levels.
Feel like getting started? Check out these three great yoga routines for ADHD sufferers to help start you off on the right path.