Yoga and memory

If you're wondering how to improve memory, then better introduce yourself to yoga.

A new study, conducted by researchers from the University of California and the University of Adelaide, found that engaging in yoga is said to be more effective at enhancing memory compared to brain training. Some areas that yoga improved were verbal memory and visual-spatial memory. It also helped reduce symptoms related to depression and anxiety.

The study involved 25 participants over the age of 55, 11 of whom had weekly hour-long memory training sessions with things like crossword puzzles and computer games, and the other 14 of whom were given weekly hour-long yoga sessions and a 20-minute Kirtan Kriya meditation to practice at home every day over the course of 12 weeks.

After the 12 weeks participants showed similar verbal memory improvements, but the yoga group improved the most with visual-spatial memory. Through functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) brain scans, the researchers saw changes in the way the brain cells connect with each other changed in both groups, but they were only statistically significant in the people practicing yoga.

“Historically and anecdotally, yoga has been thought to be beneficial in aging well, but this is the scientific demonstration of that benefit,” study co-author Harris Eyre, a doctoral candidate at Australia’s University of Adelaide, said in a statement. “We’re converting historical wisdom into the high level of evidence required for doctors to recommend therapy to their patients,” said Eyre, who conducted the study with researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles.

For participants of the study, this regular practice not only improved memory capabilities, it improved mood and helped them better cope with stress, depression and anxiety, which is important for the emotional components of aging, or managing symptoms of Alzheimer’s.

“When you have memory loss, you can get quite anxious about that and it can lead to depression,” said Professor Helen Lavretsky of the University of California at Los Angeles, a co-author of the study.

“If you or your relatives are trying to improve your memory or offset the risk for developing memory loss or dementia, a regular practice of yoga and meditation could be a simple, safe and low-cost solution to improving your brain fitness,” Lavretsky said.

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