Yoga for the brain

Chronic stress has been shown to imbalance the body’s sympathetic- parasympathetic nervous systems and negatively impact brain function as we age. It’s exposure to high levels of the stress harmane cortisol that’s thought to cause the decline of the brain’s executive functions (mental skills that help us get things done). Researchers at the University of Illinois in the US wanted to know if yoga would moderate the stress response — and protect our brains.

Researchers recruited 118 sedentary adults aged 55-79.

Over eight weeks, half of the group attended a Hatha Yoga class three times weekly; the other half engaged in a stretching and weight-training class. At the start and end at the eight-week period, researchers measured participant’s salivary cortisol levels before and after performing cognitive tests, that challenged their ability to hold information in memory and to multitask. Those with regular yoga practice were found to be better able to manage stress and performed better on cognitive tests. Time to get your downward dog on perhaps?

Source: Biological Psychology

Photography: Camilla Akrans

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