A recent study of healthy, older individuals who have committed to a weekly yoga practice has resulted in significantly greater cortical thickness (CT). The cortical thickness is a region of the brain that’s related to cognitive functions (attention and short term memory). As this region of the brain is continuously exercised and gradually sharpened, the greater one’s cognitive preservation will be as they age.
Why Might Yoga Have These Effects on the Brain?
Asana (poses) and pranayama (breath awareness) may improve cognitive functions in the brain because they require so much focus. The study also points out that yoga is a contemplative practice, and that the meditative activity required could also play a role in cognitive preservation. As yoga involves the practice of postures and breathing exercises, yoga is not limited to the physical body. By definition, yoga is a meditative activity embodied in physical postures in which an attentional component must be present.
It is important for a young person to prepare for healthy aging as well as for the older population to continue their life physically healthy and mentally sharp. The sooner we begin to practice yoga, the more cumulative the effects will be both short term and long term. The sooner we begin to practice yoga, the better!