Yoga Is Great For Your Brain, And Science Can Prove It: Get Your Mats Out!

Posted on June 21, 2016 in Down To Earth, Staff Picks

By Kundan Pandey:

Note: This article has been republished from Down To Earth.

With the world celebrating International Yoga Day today, there is a curiosity to know whether there is any proven scientific health benefits of yoga.

A few studies talk about the benefits of yoga globally. In a review published in May, 2015; Radhika Desai, Anisha Tailor and Tanvi Bhatt from the Department of Physical Therapy, University of Illinois, Chicago, found that breathing, meditation and posture-based yoga increased overall brain wave activity.

The purpose of the study was to examine and review the existing literature on the effects of yoga on brain waves, structural changes and activation. After reviewing 15 articles, it found that yoga increases grey matter, along with increase in amygdale.

International Yoga Day in Kolkata
For representation only. Source: Sonali Pal Chaudhury/ Getty

Benefits of yoga in reducing stress have been proved earlier. A study published in ‘Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice’ in May 2014 highlighted the benefit of yoga on pregnant women.

As per the study, 51 women practising yoga during pregnancy benefited from a single 90-minute session. Long-term benefits were seen as reflected by reduced perinatal depressive symptoms.

It is known that antepartum depression and postpartum depression is quite frequent and negatively impacts maternal and child health.

These disorders are characterised by mood swings during pregnancy and after delivery and its prevalence rate ranges from 4.8 per cent to 18.4 per cent for minor and from 5.1 per cent to 12.7 per cent for major depression, as per the research paper.

Svetlana Bershadsky and her colleagues from the Department of Psychology and Social Behaviour, University of California, concluded that yoga sessions can reduce stress and improve the mood of pregnant women.

Another study published in the same journal, which has been publishing several research articles on the benefits of yoga, shows that it acts as a stress buster in normal women.

Researchers, including M Javnbakth and colleagues from the Department of Psychiatry, Islamic Azad University, Iran, show that participation in a two-month yoga class can lead to significant reduction in the perceived levels of anxiety in women, who suffer from anxiety disorders. The study was published in 2009.

The US-based National Centre for Complementary and Integrated Health is currently doing research on whether practising yoga can cure several diseases such as diabetes, HIV, arthritis, menopausal symptoms in women, multiple sclerosis, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and help in smoking cessation.

The Central Council for Research in Yoga and Naturopathy, an arm of the Ministry of AYUSH, is providing 100 per cent financial assistance to premier medical, yoga and naturopathy institutions for conducting clinical research to establish the efficacy of yoga and naturopathy to prevent and treat various diseases.