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Yoga Provides Unique Cognitive Benefits

4 months, 3 weeks ago

6313  0
Posted on Mar 01, 2024, 2 p.m.

A recent study from the University of California-Los Angeles Health Services (UCLA) published in the journal Translational Psychiatry reports that Kundalini yoga provided several benefits to the cognition and memory of women at risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease such as restoring neural pathways, preventing brain matter decline and reversing aging as well as inflammation associated biomarkers. 

This study is the latest in a series of studies from UCLA over the past 15 years investigating the comparative effects of yoga and traditional memory enhancement training on slowing cognitive decline and addressing other risk factors of dementia. This latest study was designed to determine if Kundalini yoga could be used early on to prevent cognitive decline and the trajectories of Alzheimer’s disease among postmenopausal women because women have close to twice the risk of developing the disease due to several factors including longer lifespan, changes in estrogen levels and genetics. 

Kundalini yoga, also known as the Yoga of Awareness, is a dynamic blend of postures, mantra, conscious breathing, music, physical exercises, rhythmic motions, chanting, and meditations that focus on meditation and breathwork more than physical poses. It helps to bring relaxation, self-healing, and elevations by balancing the body and mind enabling clarity that does not require previous experience to achieve results. According to the Kundalini Research Institute, “The technology of Kundalini Yoga is a science of the mind and body, to elevate the spirit, which has no boundaries, no discrimination. Therefore it is for everyone, universal and nondenominational.”

This study involved more than 60 women ages 50+ who had cerebrovascular risk factors and self-reported memory issues. Participants were divided into two groups: one group participated in Kundalini yoga sessions for 12 weeks, and the other group participated in weekly memory enhancement training sessions for 12 weeks. 

Participant cognition, subjective memory, depression, and anxiety were assessed at the beginning of the study, after the first 12 weeks, and again another 12 weeks later to determine how stable any improvements were. Blood samples were also taken from the participants to test for gene expression of aging markers and molecules associated with inflammation. Some of the participants were also assessed with MRI to examine changes in their brain matter. 

According to the researchers, those in the yoga group experienced several improvements such as significant improvements in subjective memory, prevention in brain matter decline, increased connectivity in the hippocampus, improvement in peripheral cytokine and gene expression of anti-inflammatory and anti-aging molecules that were not seen in the memory enhancement training group. 

"That is what yoga is good for -- to reduce stress, to improve brain health, subjective memory performance, and reduce inflammation and improve neuroplasticity," Lavretsky said.

The main improvement seen in the memory enhancement group was in long-term memory. However, neither group experienced changes in levels of anxiety, depression, stress or resilience which is thought to be due to the participants being relatively healthy and not depressed. Although more research is required on longer-term preventive effects, the study demonstrates that yoga combined with memory training could provide more comprehensive benefits to the cognition of older women.  

"Ideally, people should do both because they do train different parts of the brain and have different overall health effects," Lavretsky said. "Yoga has this anti-inflammatory, stress-reducing, anti-aging neuroplastic brain effect which would be complementary to memory training."

As with anything you read on the internet, this article should not be construed as medical advice; please talk to your doctor or primary care provider before changing your wellness routine. This article is not intended to provide a medical diagnosis, recommendation, treatment, or endorsement. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. 

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