Forgetting. It’s the bane of our lives. We forget appointments, where we put our car keys, or worse still we forget the time and are late to pick up the kids from school.
Perhaps you’ve wondered about doing some form of brain training to regain your mental acuity and boost your memory skills? While online programs such as Lumosity and Brain HQ can help increase your speed of processing, what if there was something you could do to improve your remembrance rate that didn’t involve having to spend more time sitting in front of a computer screen?
To stop forgetting, why not sign up to a yoga or meditation class?
Perhaps we shouldn’t be that surprised, as exercise is already known to boost memory and cognition skills. However, when it comes to knowing which physical activity is the cerebral booster star, nothing, it seems, compares to yoga.
Studies examining the cognitive benefits of yoga have already shown that it is associated with an increased sense of health and wellbeing. By reducing muscular tension and stress you can enhance resiliency and mental wellbeing. This means it can help to lower levels of anxiety and depression by modulating the stress response.
New studies are now revealing the additional cognitive benefits yoga can provide.
One such study compared the cognitive benefits of yoga compared to running in a small group of young undergraduate women.
A single 20-minute session of Hatha yoga showed improved executive function (speed of processing and accuracy in tests of working memory) to a significantly greater extent compared to an equivalent time spent exercising on a treadmill. Here the effect was immediate with the mental boost lasting around 40 minutes. It’s thought that the difference is partly because regular aerobic exercise contributes improved cognition through a more delayed effect starting several hours after the activity.
Why is yoga so helpful? Because it requires a mindful practice of focus on the breath and increased awareness of the postures being practised, that stimulates the brain to think in a different way.
New research has now directly compared the effectiveness of yoga and meditation to memory training. In a pilot study, participants were allocated to either 12 weekly sessions of Kundalini style yoga and meditation or memory enhancement training.
After 12 weeks both groups showed improved verbal memory function but the yoga group also showed improvement in visual-spatial memory. In other words, you’re going to remember where you parked your car more easily!
Other benefits in the yoga group including an elevated mood, greater resiliency and reduced anxiety.
Is yoga the new super-exercise for all brains?
It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking yoga is clearly the best thing since sliced bread for keeping our brains sharp. While it undoubtedly provides a number of cognitive benefits, as with diet, it’s not about a single item but applying a range of useful choices. Yoga on its own won’t give you the Nimbus 2016 Cerebral Broomstick you’re after. However combining yoga with some regular Huffnpuff exercise, the hot and sweaty sort that gets your heart rate up as well as increasing your level of general physical activity each day would certainly appear to be a very enjoyable way to boost your cognitive and physical fitness and help with forgetting.
Does your memory need a little zoosh to bring it up to speed?
Are some new Yoga pants now in order to get you to the next class?
Are you already doing a little yoga-cardio combo to get your brain cells singing?
I’d love to hear your thoughts.