Can a 20-minute session of Hatha yoga actually improve brain function?
Neha Gothe and her colleagues at the University of Illinois student performed a study with 30 female, undergraduate students to show it can, and the findings were published in the “Journal of Physical Activity and Health.”
Participants in the study improved speed and accuracy on tests of working memory and inhibitory control – two measures of brain function associated with the ability to maintain focus, take in, retain and use new information, Business Standard reported.
“Yoga is an ancient Indian science and way of life that includes not only physical movements and postures but also regulated breathing and meditation,” Neha Gothe, who led the study while a graduate student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign said in the report. Gothe is now a professor of kinesiology, health and sport studies at Wayne State University in Detroit. “The practice involves an active attentional or mindfulness component, but its potential benefits have not been thoroughly explored.”
The study revealed participants had more improvement in their reaction times and accuracy on cognitive tasks after yoga practice compared to after an aerobic exercise session, which showed no significant improvements on the working memory and inhibitory control scores.
“It appears that following yoga practice, the participants were better able to focus their mental resources, process information quickly, more accurately and also learn, hold and update pieces of information more effectively than after performing an aerobic exercise bout,” Gothe said.