Yoga boosted memory and concentration than vigorous exercise

The ancient yoga practice was found to be more effective at boosting brain power than vigorous exercise, found researchers from Wayne State University in Detroit. Researchers discovered that a single session of Hatha yoga significantly improved individual’s speed and accuracy when tested for working memory and concentration.

Hatha yoga is an ancient form of yoga that was first described in fifteenth century in India. Hatha yoga is also known as dual yoga because it includes a duality between two opposites: the sun (in Hindu, ‘ha’) and the moon (‘tha’). It uses physical positions to help control breathing, which in turn helps to calm the mind and prepare a person for meditation.

Numerous contemporary forms of yoga use Hatha yoga positions as their base. To see the impact of a single session of Hatha yoga on memory and concentration, researchers conducted a study that involved thirty female students from Illinois University's Exercise Psychology Laboratory. During the experimental yoga sessions participants were asked to assume postures stood up, sat down and laid down, while keeping their breathing steady.

The exercises included isometric contractions of different muscles in the body, where the muscles are tensed and relaxed without moving any limbs. These were followed by a mediation session, where participants focussed on posture and deep breathing.  A control group was also put through their paces on a treadmill for a similar session, keeping their heart rate up between sixty and seventy percent of the maximum.

Researchers found that people who had been for a 20-minute jog were less able to focus mentally on tasks than they were following a yoga session. Lead author Prof Neha Gothe explained it seems that following yoga practice, the participants were better able to focus their mental resources, process information quickly, more accurately.

They also learn, hold and update pieces of information more effectively than following a session of an aerobic exercise. In addition to that 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. Perhaps these processes translate beyond yoga practice when you try to perform mental tasks.

The researchers could not pinpoint any specific process that takes place during yoga that boosted the mental state, however the study suggests the relaxation from meditation could improve the mental state. Enhanced self-awareness that comes with meditational exercises is just one of the possible mechanisms, added Prof Gothe. The study was published in the Journal of Physical Activity and Health.


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