You might think of yoga as just a great practice to move around and stretch your body on a regular basis, but scientists keep uncovering new ways the ancient exercise can benefit us even more. Most recently, a study has claimed that it can help keep our brain health from declining as we age.
Researchers from the University of Illinois and Wayne State University in Michigan published their fascinating results in Brain Plasticity. The team gathered up 11 different studies that used MRI scans to track any structural changes in the brains of participants between 2009 and 2019. When looking at those who practiced yoga at least twice a week, they found a positive correlation to the function of their hippocampus, amygdala, prefrontal cortex, cingulate cortex, and other brain networks — all areas which deal with memory and age-related neurodegeneration.
The researchers were particularly impressed by the results of those who practiced Hatha yoga, which combines physical movements, breathing exercises, and meditation. “We believe one of the key mechanisms could be that regular yoga practice impacts emotional regulation,” study author Neha Gothe told CNBC. “So, a combination of the three core elements of yoga seems to have an impact on the brain structure and function.”
More studies are needed to further confirm these findings, but it’s pretty exciting to know that by stretching and working out our bodies every now and then, we’re helping keep our minds sharp, too. The amount of yoga you’ll need for similar benefits can vary from person to person, but Gothe claims most of us can strengthen our brains by doing it just once or twice a week for 10 to 24 weeks.