There are athletes out there who think of yoga as a recovery day workout—and not a lot more. However, a University of Illinois review of research suggests the bendy practice impacts the same brain regions and networks as aerobic exercise, which is known to improve cognitive performance.
The review of 11 studies on Hatha yoga found that, after as little as 10 weeks, people who did weekly yoga improved the parts of the brain responsible for tasks such as memory processing and decision-making. Hatha is a slow practice, so its benefits aren’t due to increased heart rate or oxygen to the brain.
“Yoga may work through other mechanisms, such as reducing anxiety and relaxing your body,” says lead author of the study Neha Gothe, who studies kinesiology and neuroscience. “Our brain works better when we are less stressed. It is possible that yoga affects the brain through these emotional-regulation pathways.”
This may be a case in which more is more—the longer and more frequently you do it, the better it is for your noggin. So if you’ve been dragging your feet about trying yoga, there’s never been a better time or reason: boost your brain, lower anxiety, and ease tension.
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