You know that yoga is good for your body—it increases flexibility, tones your muscles, massages your internal organs, and even helps your body detox—but now new research is showing it may be seriously good for your brain, too! In fact, it might sharpen your brain even more than other exercises.
According to research by the Exercise Psychology Laboratory at the University of Illinois, a single 20-minute Hatha yoga session can improve brain function better than moderate to vigorous aerobic exercise.
In the study, researchers measured the reaction times and accuracy on cognitive tasks of 30 female participants after they’d done yoga for 20 minutes, and after exercising for 20 minutes on a treadmill. After doing yoga, the women were better able to focus and process information quickly and more accurately. They were also better able to learn, hold and update pieces of information than after the aerobic exercise.
The reason? Breathing! According to Professor Neha Gothe, lead researcher: “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.” The breathing and meditation also helps calm anxiety and reduce stress, which can also help cognitive function.