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.
This 12-part sequence is to be done continuously, at a natural pace. Begin in mountain pose. Press your palms together in a prayer position and lift your arms over your head into upward salute (urdhva hastasana), arching your back slightly. Bend forward into standing forward bend (see above). Then, arch your torso slightly away from your legs and lift your head so it’s facing forward. Photo Credit: Shutterstock Click Here to see All 9 Yoga Poses That Make You Smarter
From the previous pose, bring one leg back into a lunge, and then bring the next foot back so that your feet are hip-width apart. Your palms should be flat on the ground, hands facing forward, wrists bent 90 degrees. Straighten your back so that you’re in plank pose—legs, spine and neck should form a line. Bend your arms to lower your body into four-limbed staff pose (chaturanga dandasana) and touch your knees to the ground. Photo Credit: Shutterstock
From four-limbed staff pose, lower your pelvis to the ground and arch your torso upward so that you enter upward-facing dog (urdhva mukha svanasana). Roll back into downward-facing dog on an exhale. Photo Credit: Shutterstock Click Here to see All 9 Yoga Poses That Make You Smarter
On an inhale, step one foot forward between your hands into a lunge and perform the first three poses in reverse: standing forward bend, upward salute, and mountain pose. Repeat the sun salutation sequence once or twice more. Photo Credit: Shutterstock
A true lotus pose, with each foot on top of opposing thigh and knees to the ground, is difficult, if not impossible, for most beginners—and can cause injury if done incorrectly. Instead, sit cross legged, straighten your back, place your hands on your knees with palms up and thumb and forefinger together. Close your eyes and focus on deep breathing. Hold for four minutes. Photo Credit: Shutterstock Click Here to see All 9 Yoga Poses That Make You Smarter
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."
-- Mark Lebetkin, The Active Times
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