Numerous studies have been featured in the media about the benefits of aerobic exercise for keeping our brains functioning at optimum capacity. Exercise lifts our moods, helps grow telemeres and has been shown to help protect our memories as we age, even more than doing crossword puzzles. The current study by Neha Gothe, PhD, and her colleagues at the University of Illinois, compared a twenty minute yoga protocol that included pranayama breathing and a brief meditation to both vigorous and moderate exercise on a treadmill for the same period of time. While there was no change in the exercise group’s ability to focus and the exercisers capacity to take in, retain and use new information, the yoga practitioners showed significant enhancements in their reaction times and accuracy on cognitive tasks after completing yoga practice.
Thirty college-age women participated in a 20-minute yoga progression of seated, standing and supine yoga postures, which included isometric contraction and relaxation of different muscle groups and regulated breathing. Finally, the yoga session ended with a meditative posture and deep breathing. The same group of women also took part in an aerobic exercise session that included walking or jogging on a treadmill for 20 minutes, with an objective to maintain 60 to 70 percent of maximum heart rate throughout the exercise session.
Neha Gothe, who is currently a professor of kinesiology, health and sport studies at Wayne State University in Detroit, said yoga seemed to help the participants “…focus their mental resources, process information quickly, more accurately and also learn, hold and update pieces of information more effectively than after performing an aerobic exercise bout.”
This study underscores the theory in LifeForce Yoga that you don’t have to roll out a mat and practice for an hour and a half to receive the benefits of yoga. Just clearing the space for a few minutes each day can make a tremendous difference in your ability to concentrate and your mood. For those of you who regularly practice, here’s the twenty-minute sequence used in the study, just published in the Journal of Physical Activity and Health.
Order Position name Duration
1 Uttanasana—Standing Forward Bend 1 minute
2 Vrikshasana—Tree Pose 1 minute
3 Trikonasana—Triangle Pose 2 minutes
4 Parivrtta Trikonasana—Reverse Triangle Pose 2 minutes
5 Adho Mukha Shvanasana—Downward Facing Dog 2 minutes
6 Ustrasana—Easy Camel Pose 2 minutes
7 Shashankasana—Hare Pose 2 minutes
8 Suryanamaskar—Salute to the Sun 4 minutes
9 Padmasana Pranayama—Deep Breathing in Lotus Pose 4 minutes
To download a pdf of the current study, click here.
To find a LifeForce Yoga Practitioner in your area, click here