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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?

Yes really.

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.

Dr Jenny Brockis

Dr Jenny Brockis is a medical practitioner and internationally board-certified lifestyle medicine physician, workplace health and wellbeing consultant, podcaster, keynote speaker and best-selling author. Her new book 'Thriving Mind: How to Cultivate a Good Life' (Wiley) is available online and at all good bookstores.


  • Judy says:

    Hi Jenny, I came with my husband to your talk in Cromwell NZ recently and have read your latest book cover to cover. I am 67, do yoga regularly and have done so for more than 15 years….my husband for not quite that long. From my own perspective I totally agree that yoga and any form of meditation is good for the body and soul. Even if I go into a yoga class feeling a little jaded I come out feeling invigorated and inspired to get on with my day with renewed energy. I also walk, ski all winter, ride a bike occasionally and attend two weight training classes a week. If I slip up on any of it my body tells me so! I totally agree with you…a combination of yoga, any form of meditation and excercise is great! I have recently been diagnosed with some hearing loss and am about to embark on hearing aids. What a horrible thought…and yet the he Audiologist informed me and I have read an article that suggests that hearing loss can lead to brain shrinkage and so could be linked to cognitive decline .Would be interested to know your thoughts on this. Could you even point me in the right direction for some further information regarding these claims please? Thank you for the opportunity to comment, Judy

  • Dr Jenny Brockis says:

    Hello Judy,I’m thrilled to hear how yoga has been so useful to your health and wellbeing That’s fabulous.Not such great news to have been advised about the hearing loss.My thoughts about this are that if the deafness is not addressed making it harder for someone to join in a conversation, listen to the radio or watch the tv then they start to lose that mental stimulation needed for best cognitive health.
    In some instances, deafness can cause a person to become socially isolated (and depressed) which are risk factors for cognitive decline.
    However not everyone who has hearing loss loses their marbles! If you remain active (as it sounds as if you have every intention of continuing to be) and manage the hearing loss with whichever aids work the best then I don’t think you have any reason to fear excess brain shrinkage. All brains shrink with age, those who exercise and stay engaged socially will maintain their brain volume more easily.
    I hope that has allayed some of your fears.
    Happy Yogaing 🙂

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