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How Yoga Changes Your Brain And Mental Health Tremendously

How Yoga Changes Your Brain And Mental Health Tremendously

If you are a yoga fan, you are probably well aware of how many physical benefits this practice can bring. Studies in the past have shown that yoga can help with weight loss, muscle building and toning, joint flexibility and health and even chronic painful conditions like fibromyalgia and rheumatoid arthritis. But did you know how much this ancient practice could also improve your mental health and abilities? A recent study of adults with mild memory loss showed just how healthy yoga is for your brain.

The Study and What it Found

Researchers, well aware of the physical benefits of yoga, sought to understand more about the mental/cognitive benefits of this exercise regimen. In order to do this, they recruited a group of middle-aged and older volunteers who had, upon interviewing, expressed concerns about their memories and had in fact been diagnosed with a mild form of cognitive decline, a condition that can be a precursor to Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. These conditions, if they worsen, can have a serious and negative impact on a patient’s quality of life.

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The researchers did a brain scan on all patients in order to establish a baseline for their mental activity/function. They then divided participants into two separate groups, one which received a one hour brain training session plus fifteen minutes of practice daily while the other received a one hour kundalini yoga session with fifteen minutes of at-home practice daily (in other words, both groups spent the same amount of time with these interventions each week).

At the end of this three month study, all the participants were given a brain scan again to see if the interventions had had any affect on their cognitive health. It was found that both groups of patients had experienced cognitive improvement in areas of the brain that affect memory and language skills. However, the group which participated in yoga also displayed improvement in areas of the brain which control concentration and attention; in other words, the yoga group also came out of this study with enhanced ability to focus and multitask, showing that yoga was superior to the brain training program to improve mental functions.

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“We were a bit surprised by the magnitude of the brain effects,” noted Helen Lavretsky, the lead researcher in this study, when commenting upon the results.

The Study in Context

What is perhaps one of the most interesting parts of this study is that it does not stand alone. It is, rather, part of the growing body of evidence which shows that yoga’s mental/cognitive benefits may well equal or even exceed its physical ones.

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In the past, for instance, similar clinical studies on yoga have found a positive link between this practice and depression and anxiety, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and even serious psychotic disorders like schizophrenia. One study even found that this seemingly mild, gentle practice was actually better than aerobics at improving brain functions such as speed and accuracy of mental processing.

In short, this study on patients with mild cognitive decline is simply part of a growing body of clinical evidence which shows that yoga, in addition to improving the health of the body, is able to improve the health of the mind as well, not only for problems like memory loss but for mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, ADHD and even more serious issues like schizophrenia. In short, this practice is a truly holistic method to improve all aspects of your health, apart from bringing a high degree of enjoyment and satisfaction to those who participated in it on the daily basis.

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Featured photo credit: Freepik via freepik.com

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Brian Wu

Health Writer, Author

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Last Updated on April 2, 2020

10 Quick Easy Workouts To Lose Arm Fat At Home

10 Quick Easy Workouts To Lose Arm Fat At Home

Flabby arms are something a lot of us have to tend to. If you find yourself buying a sweater or cardigan to go with your tank top or usually opt for the long-sleeved dress, then you’re not alone. Usually a result of genes, general excess fat or just ageing, it seems difficult to lose arm fat. The fat in our arms accumulates mainly around the triceps – the muscles on the back of your upper arm – and are prone to getting flabby if not exercised regularly.

What we eat can also play a part in the extent of the jiggle so eating a good, healthy balanced diet as well as keeping well hydrated can put you on the right track. Resistance exercises are the most effective way to blast that underarm fat as well as strengthen, shape and tone your muscles. You can always go down to the gym and work up a sweat but who has time for that? If you want a convenient and quick alternative then you can easily manage an effective routine in the comfort of your own home. All you need is a set of dumbbells and you can start toning up those bingo wings with these 10 easy workouts.

1. Tricep dips

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    Works: Triceps

    • Hands must be positioned shoulder width apart on a secured chair or bench.
    • Position your bum in front of the bench with feet hip-width apart on the floor and legs bent.
    • Straighten out your arms a little, keeping a slight bend from the elbow so to put more emphasis on the tricep and less stress on the elbow.
    • Keeping your back close to the bench, slowly lower your body so that your arms are at a 90-degree angle.
    • Once in this position slowly push off your hands back to the starting position.
    • Do 10-15 reps.

    2. Bicep curls

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      Works: Biceps and shoulders

      • Start off with your feet hip-distance apart, holding one dumbbell in each hand with your palms facing out.
      • Starting with your left arm, bend your elbow to slowly bring the weight up to your shoulder holding the position for 5 seconds.
      • Slowly release the elbow and straighten your arm back down to the starting position.
      • Repeat the moves on the right side.
      • Complete 3 sets of 10-15 reps for each arm.

      3. Push ups

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        Works: Triceps and Deltoids

        • Lying face down, place your hands on the floor roughly shoulder-width apart.
        • Tuck your toes under and gently lift your body up, pushing through your hands and making sure not to lock your elbows.
        • Slowly bend your elbows bringing your face roughly 2-3 inches from the ground.
        • Slowly push back up through your arms. If this is difficult then do the same move but keeping your knees on the floor.
        • Repeat 10-15 times.

        4. Tricep Kickbacks

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          Works: Triceps

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          • Place a weight in each hand and kneel down onto the floor with your toes tucked under.
          • Bend your upper body forward from the hips up and bend your elbows to a 90-degree angle.
          • Extend both your arms backwards while your palms are facing each other.
          • Feel the tension in the triceps and return to the starting position.
          • Do 3 sets of 8-10 reps.

          5. Plank

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            Works: Chest, Shoulders, Biceps and Core

            • Start face-down on the floor, resting on your forearms and knees.
            • Step your feet out so that they are slightly apart and come into the plank position.
            • Make sure your body is straight, parallel to the floor and your bum is tucked in.
            • Pull your abs in and hold the position for as long as you can. Try to aim for 20-30 seconds and build up to a minute.
            • Repeat 3 times.

            6. Tricep Extensions

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              Works: Triceps

              • Stand on a mat with your feet hip-width apart.
              • Hold one dumbbell with both hands behind your head, bending the elbows.
              • Bring the weight towards the ceiling, straightening your arms above your head.
              • Lower back to starting position.
              • Complete 2-3 sets of 10-15 reps.

              7. Lateral Arm Raises

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                Works: Deltoids

                • Stand with feel hip-width apart. With arms down the side of your body, hold a dumbbell in each hand with palms facing in.
                • Starting with your left side, inhale and slowly raise your arm so that it’s parallel to the floor. Make sure not to lock your elbow by keeping a slight bend.
                • Make sure your arm is straight and palm is facing the floor.
                • Exhale and slowly bring your arm back down to your side.
                • Repeat on the right side.
                • Do 10-15 reps on each side and two sets.

                8. Overhead Press

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                  Works: Shoulders

                  • Stand up, lining your feet with your hips and hold a dumbbell in each hand with palms facing out.
                  • Bring the weights to your shoulders.
                  • Keep your core muscles tight and straighten your arms above you.
                  • Slowly bring your arms back down to your shoulders.
                  • Do 3 sets of 10-15 reps.

                  9. Bent Over Row

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                    Works: Triceps and Biceps 

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                    • Place your feet shoulder-width apart.
                    • Bend your knees and and then bend your upper body forward from the hips making sure you keep your back nice and straight.
                    • Make sure your hands are straight and placed under your shoulders.
                    • Bend the elbows back while lifting your arms towards the sides of your chest, pulling your shoulder blades towards each other.
                    • Slowly lower the weights in a controlled movement and feel the tension at your triceps.
                    • Repeat 10-15 times.

                    10. Skull Crushers

                    Skull-Crushers

                      Works: Triceps

                      • While holding a dumbbell in each hand, lie on your back with your knees bent.
                      • Slowly raise your arms so they are above your chest, making sure your elbows are straight but not locked.
                      • Slowly lower both arms toward your head, bending your elbows to 90 degrees as the dumbbells reach the mat. Aim to lower your weights so they are on either side of your head  with elbows bent and pressing in toward your head (being careful not to hit yourself in the face).
                      • Lift your arms back to starting position.
                      • Complete 2 or 3 sets, 10-15 reps each.

                      Featured photo credit: Maddi Bazzocco via unsplash.com

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