Your Brain on Yoga | Yoga

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This article was originally published on the Huffington Post June 10, 2013.

Just 20 minutes of yoga could help your brain function better, according to a small new study.

Researchers found that people did better -- both speed-wise and accuracy-wise -- on brain functioning tests after just 20 minutes of Hatha yoga, compared with aerobic exercise.

"It appears that following yoga practice, the participants were better able to focus their mental resources, process information quickly, more accurately and also learn, hold and update pieces of information more effectively than after performing an aerobic exercise bout," study researcher Neha Gothe, a professor of kinesiology, health and sport studies at the university, said in a statement. Gothe conducted the study while a graduate student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

"The breathing and meditative exercises aim at calming the mind and body and keeping distracting thoughts away while you focus on your body, posture or breath. Maybe these processes translate beyond yoga practice when you try to perform mental tasks or day-to-day activities," he added.

The study, published in the Journal of Physical Activity and Health, included 30 young female college students who underwent 20 minutes of yoga followed by meditation and deep breathing, as well as 20 minutes of aerobic exercise (jogging on a treadmill).

Researchers had the participants do cognitive testing after the yoga session and after the aerobic exercise session, and they found that the scores were better on the tests after the yoga session than the aerobic exercise.

"Enhanced self-awareness that comes with meditational exercises is just one of the possible mechanisms," Gothe said in the statement. "Besides, meditation and breathing exercises are known to reduce anxiety and stress, which in turn can improve scores on some cognitive tests."

Sachi Doctor

Elemental Alchemy, 90 Rio Vista Avenue, Oakland, CA, 94611

Sachi Doctor is an Ayurvedic practitioner and holistic health coach who founded Elemental Alchemy with the mission to provide a resource for those navigating their way towards optimal mind-body health.

Diagnosed with an autoimmune disease at a young age, Sachi has spent over twenty years exploring different health modalities, treatment plans, diets and mindfulness practices to help alleviate chronic pain and restore balance.

After years of looking to others for a model of health with no relief, Sachi realized that the answers she sought were not hidden in someone else’s prescription for wellness but unique to her, and that the first step towards discovery was actually tuning out what was right for others and tuning into herself.

As she tapped into the wisdom of her own body, she discovered that the elements foundational for health  — the blueprint she so fervently sought — was within her, within each of us. Since then Sachi has been passionate about helping others also cultivate clarity and inner wisdom for vibrant health.

In addition to her Ayurvedic and nutrition education, Sachi has completed over 800 hours of yoga teacher training and continues to study with her mother, her first yoga teacher, for whom these practices are a way of life.

Sachi is a board member of the Prison Yoga Project at San Quentin State Prison and serves as an ambassador for Yoga Gives Back, a non-profit that raises funds within the US yoga community to support microcredit programs for women in India. She holds a Msc in Development from the London School of Economics.