Yoga is an ancient form of body-mind fitness which promotes strength, endurance and flexibility to people of any age. Many people use it as a tool for dealing with stress and anxiety, but the benefits of yoga go beyond improving your mental health. The activity can prevent conditions of ageing and is a low-cost and less dangerous alternative to medications.
In the last blog, we discovered the benefits of mindful meditation on cognitive function. While meditation involves sitting peacefully and concentrating on the presence, yoga adds the physical aspect to the practice.
"Yoga's integration of movement with breath awareness and focused attention facilitates neural communication between brain and body," says a psychologist and researcher, B Grace Bullock.
By coordinating breath with movement, we are becoming more aware of our surroundings and sustaining attention in the present moment. Studies show that controlling the body posture as well as the rate of inspiration and expiration results in increased gray matter density and activation in your hippocampus and prefrontal cortex. For older adults, it means better focus, emotional control and decision making. Additionally, during yoga, your whole body relaxes as the brain releases hormones such as dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin, and endorphins, which are in charge of happy feelings. It also lowers the levels of stress hormones, which can become harmful when released chronically upon having a hectic lifestyle.
"We found that those who had done yoga for eight weeks had an attenuated cortisol response to stress that was associated with better performance on tests of decision-making, task-switching and attention," says health professor Neha Gothe who led the brain plasticity research with Wayne State University.
But, it doesn't stop there. The relaxation allows for certain brain areas responsible for planning and reasoning to slow down and rest. As such, you become better at handling emotions such as fear or worry.
Other general changes
The ageing process affects our bodies in many ways, but fortunately, interventions like yoga can help maintain emotional and physical well-being. The loss of flexibility, strength and balance occurring with age can be reversed by adding yoga training to the fitness routine. Weight-bearing exercises act on the skeleton to increase bone density, decreasing the risk of suffering from osteoporosis. Building up strength through yoga could be a safe, gentle approach to minimise the risk of fractures and falls in the elderly. Some yoga poses such as boat pose or plank additionally build up muscles in your core, which can help fight the back pain and encourage good posture. What's more, yoga improves heart health and reduces the risk factors for heart disease.
Sign up for Mindmate today
Do you want to learn more about dementia and how to keep your cognitive functions fit and healthy? Sign up for our Mindmate app and enjoy brain games to improve your memory, exercises, and lifestyle hacks that can benefit your cognitive function. Sign up here.