5 Powerful Ways Yoga Benefits Your Brain, According to Scientific Research

Photo: Getty Images/fizkes
Yoga boasts an impressive 5,000-year track record. As the most popular workout in the world, the benefits of yoga include fast-tracking digestion, tapping into big emotions, and making you strong from head to heart to toes. In the 21st century, scientific research is confirming long-held beliefs about the many benefits of yoga—particularly when it comes to mental health.

A wealth of new research offers a better picture of how your work on the mat carries into your everyday life. You'll want to take notes on all the ways the many types of yoga gives your brain a boost. You don't want to savasana through this info.

5 brain benefits of yoga to you may not have known

1. It has been found to decrease anxiety

A 2015 meta-analysis of 15 yoga studies focused on the cognitive effects following yoga class. Researchers found that practitioners had increased overall brain activity, as well as lower levels of anxiety.

2. Yoga may slow down your brain waves

Slow brain waves indicate a more restful, sleepy state. More research from 2015 found that yoga increased positive brain wave states, increased alpha waves (which are associated with calmness), and enhanced theta wave activity (a state that's associated with daydreaming).

3. It was found to improve well-being in older adults

Recent research published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity found that yoga interventions didn't just improve the physical fitness of older adults. It also significantly improved their mental health, too. (I'll call that a twofer.)

4. Yoga may improve your memory

A very small study of 13 yoga practitioners looked at the gray matter volume of the hippocampus, thalamus, and caudate nucleus. A closer look at yogi's brains under the fMRI machine found that those who consistently practiced had increased gray matter in these spaces. In other words, all those asanas could be boosting your memory.

5. The practice may improve your body image

Because yoga promotes an inner-awareness, surveys suggest that it may make you be kinder to your own body. A study of 1,664 participants found that practicing yoga a mere 30 minutes per week had higher levels of body satisfaction than those who didn't.

Get the benefits of yoga right this minute: 

Looking for a sweaty practice? Try "cardio yoga." And here's how to actually "close your rib cage" when your teacher tells you to. 

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