Can yoga make you smarter? It’s not as much of a stretch as you think.
A recent study out of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign tested this idea on 30 female college students and found that just 20 minutes of yoga enabled them to better complete mental tasks that involve the speed and accuracy of their working memory and other important measures of cognitive performance.
In fact, as a brain booster, yoga outperformed an intense bout of aerobic exercise, which has already been shown to have positive effects on the brain.
“It appears that following yoga practice, the participants were better able to 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,” said lead researcher Neha Gothe in a press release.
Although there may be many reasons for the results, Gothe believes that yoga’s focus on mindfulness may be an important factor. “The breathing and meditative exercises aim at calming the mind and body and keeping distracting thoughts away while you focus on your body, posture or breath,” she said. “Maybe these processes translate beyond yoga practice when you try to perform mental tasks or day-to-day activities.”
To see the sequence of poses that boosted the students’ brain power, click here.
Note: Note the sequence of poses is the same, but the poses themselves may be slightly modified from those used in the study. As with all poses, it’s best to practice these with a certified yoga instructor before trying them on your own. If you have any injuries, check first with your instructor or a physical therapist.