A study involving three yoga sessions each week reported reduced levels of stress and anxiety, as well as improved brain functions, including working memory and concentration.
The aim of the scientific work was to prepare an eight-week training yoga program aimed at those who work full time and go through a lot of stress. Scientists want to show the beneficial effects of practicing yoga not only on the body, but also on the psyche.
Professor Sean Mullen, from the Department of Kinesiology and Public Health at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, is lead author of the study. He started from the thought that yoga is often compared to aerobics or cardio. Cardio has proven beneficial effects on brain health, but the movements when one does cardio are simple and repetitive. In yoga, complex movements are made that require some degree of awareness and technique for correct execution.
An example of the complexity of yoga is Surya namaskar or “sun salutation”. It is a complex of yoga asanas (postures) that are performed in sequence and mimic the sunrise and sunset.
Participants in this study followed a video instruction to correctly perform the sun salutation. They were in the safety of their homes and were gradually encouraged to perform Surya Namaskar without watching the instruction. The purpose of this task is to slowly and gradually build confidence in the participants’ ability to perform Surya Namaskar. So after some time, they will remember the sequence of poses.
By learning new postures, scientists wanted to develop working memory. Dr. Mullen shares, “Moving through multiple active poses, as opposed to static ones, should theoretically improve attentional abilities or inhibitory control. Drifting can potentially improve spatial memory.”
In addition to improvements in working memory, volunteers also reported reduced levels of stress and anxiety. This may be due to the effect of the physical exertion of yoga on the body, but the environment also has an effect – the safety of their own home helps participants feel safe. Especially since the COVID-19 pandemic, many people have turned more to exercising at home.
The scientific work is presented in the Journal of Behavioral Medicine.
Mullen, S. (2023, February 8) Feasibility and impact of a remote moderate-intensity yoga intervention on stress and executive functioning in working adults: a randomized controlled trial. Retrieved 2023, May 5 from https://doi.org/10.1007/s10865-022-00385-4
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