Yoga Boosts Brain Function

Research has revealed that just one 20 minute session of Hatha yoga considerably improved speed and accuracy on tests of inhibitory control and working memory

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Your Brain’s RAM

Working memory is the RAM of your brain.  Kind of like a temporary storage bin that allows you to think on your feet and organize your thoughts coherently.

What it Does

While delivering a presentation, having a conversation, or simply reading a blog post, your working memory is constantly processing, filing, and shifting your thoughts around into an organized queue that allows you to sort, store, and deliver information to achieve your goal – comprehension, communication, persuasion, etc.

The Neuroscience

Several fascinating recent neuroscientific studies show that there is much more to the deep core stimulation and isometric muscle contractions of yoga than a simple relaxation response.

These types of muscle stimulation actually have traceable, neurosynaptic pathways that result in testable improvements in working memory.

Calmer AND Smarter?

Other studies have mapped out a direct connection between the brain region that connects to the deep core muscles and the adrenal gland – the source of the stress hormone cortisol.

These studies give us actual testable results, and even a traceable neurosynaptic pathway, that can explain and confirm how yoga can make you calmer and smarter.

This is different from the subjective, nebulous, post-exercise “high” attributed to endorphins but rather a testable outcome with identifiable neurosynaptic pathways.

What about Cardio?

Do all forms of exercise have this effect?  Well, yes – but sorry cardio – not to the same degree.  When comparing different types of exercise, so far the evidence shows that strength training has a greater effect than cardio on working memory, and the link between the motor cortex and the adrenal gland has been demonstrated only for the deep core muscles.  The current study also looked mainly at isometric contraction, common in yoga but not typical of standard gym workouts.

More Great Reasons to Do Yoga

Further study will undoubtedly shed more light on these effects, but for now you have some solid scientific evidence that the deep core isometrics of yoga can actually make you calmer and smarter.


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