Is yoga a brain workout too?

Do you really still believe that yoga is just a gentle form of exercise reserved for someone recovering from an injury or your elderly mother? Then I’m guessing this is the first of our yoga blogs you are reading and you definitely haven’t been to one of our classes! 

Not only is yoga an excellent bodyweight workout which can improve your strength, an energetic workout that can raise the heart rate and a way to increase mobility in your active range of motion, it can also give your brain a workout. 

There are many ways that yoga improves our brain function. Read on to understand just how it can help us.

  1. Combining mind, body and breath is effective in bringing us an awareness of our selves in the space. This brings things into sharper focus when we are off the mat. Feeling more centred can make us much calmer in our everyday lives leading to better decision making and clearer thinking.
  2. Yoga has proven benefits for our sleep. Sleep gives the body and brain time to recover from the day. Of course our brain is actually switched on and working while we are asleep but the focus of this work is elsewhere. Without adequate sleep, our brain cannot function at its optimum, we feel foggy – we are not as sharp and our emotions are not as easy to keep in check either. 
  3. We are constantly using our brains in a yoga class. Whether that is to learn a new asana, remembering how it feels in the body and applying vocal cues given by teachers – extend through the spine, drop the shoulders down the back, flex the foot, engage the core, externally rotate the thigh. We need to process the instruction and apply it to our own bodies. This is extremely complex for our brains. Imagine completing a job at work and trying to remember 6 different cues for just this one job. We also call on our long-term memory to help us remember key sequences – how many of us can complete a sun salutation without much thought? For many of us it has become second nature but that took a lot of learning to get to this point. That process didn’t just happen overnight and we wouldn’t have got anywhere without engaging our brain.
  4. Some of our mobility drills really work the brain. Maybe we have never asked our body to move in a certain way (I still can’t control my toes individually without looking at them). Our nervous system has to be ‘woken up’ to move in a certain way. It takes time for our brain to process these new actions. Just try to take the opposite arm and leg in and out while stabilising the rest of the body in a table top position and you will see how hard it is to control the limbs you can’t see. 

There have been recent studies into the benefits of yoga on the brain. There have been interesting findings by Neha Gothe who has been quoted

‘The preliminary studies we reviewed demonstrate a positive effect of yoga practice on the hippocampus, amygdala, cingulate cortex, and prefrontal cortex. These are regions of the brain that are responsible for memory and information processing, as well as emotional regulation.’ 

She also said the findings are similar to that of the effects of aerobic exercise on the brain. 

Did you really need any more reasons to join us in a yoga class? Not only do we work on improving mobility, raising the heart rate and increasing body strength but we also give your brain a workout improving its functionality. What more could you ask for from a workout? Of course there is still savasana at the end of class that is much needed after you have exercised your body and brain!

We have evening and weekend classes so click here to book yourself in today.

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