Four Studies: Yoga And Meditation Keeps Your Brain Young, Happy and Reduces Inflammations

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You may already be a Yoga junkie who is in love with your downward dog or deeply calming Om chants or the stilling moment when all you hear and feel is your breath. But we went back to read up on what research carried out in the last year in medical sciences and psychiatry have to say about the benefits of Yoga for brain activity. Among the other benefits, Yoga helps reverse genes that could give you a higher chance of inflammations! How about that?


1)      Reversing gene expression responsible for inflammations

A very interesting study review titled ‘What Is the Molecular Signature of Mind–Body Interventions? A Systematic Review of Gene Expression Changes Induced by Meditation and Related Practices’ published in Frontiers In Immunology, showed that mind body interventions in the form of Yoga, meditation and deep breathing exercises could actually reverse the genetic expression responsible for increase in the occurrence of inflammations caused from stress.  This study is one of the few studies undertaken to understand the benefits of these ancient forms of wellness on a molecular level.

“Overall, the studies indicate that these practices are associated with a down regulation of nuclear factor kappa B pathway; this is the opposite of the effects of chronic stress on gene expression and suggests that MBI practices may lead to a reduced risk of inflammation-related diseases”, the study said.

“This finding suggests that there may be something special about meditation— as opposed to the physical posing— that carries a lot of the cognitive benefits of yoga,” Kimberley Luu, lead author on the paper is quoted as saying in the study.

2)      Yoga gives you power to change your habits

Another transformative study published by the University of Waterloo in September last year revealed that practicing even 25 minutes of Yoga and meditation can improve brain’s executive functions. Brain’s executive functions facilitate mental processes like memory, planning, focus and juggling multiple instructions at once.  The focus group showed improved emotional resilience and enhanced ability to observe and change habits and thought patterns and resultant action. In other word, Yoga truly brings more poise in our decision making abilities.

3) Meditation Can Treat Clinical Depression 

Research on the effects of Sahaj Samadhi Meditation, a technique taught by The Art of Living, on cardiovascular health, nervous system and clinical depression that won the award for best research at the 17th Annual World Psychiatry Conference held from 8–12 October 2017 in Berlin discussed how Sahaj Samadhi Meditation, an Automatic Self Transcending Meditation (ASTM), improves symptoms of late-life depression. The paper was authored by Akshya Vasudev from the Department o Psychiatry, Western University. The other co-authors were- Emily Lonson, Amer Burhan from Psychiatry Department of Western University and Ronnie Newman from The Art of Living.
Vasudev’s paper published in British Journal of Psychiatry elaborated on how late-life depression affects 2–6% of seniors aged 60 years and above, it was found that adding Sahaj Samadhi mediation technique to traditional treatments (Drugs and/or Psycotherapy) was five times more effective than traditional treatments alone (9% Vs 50% remission rate from depression). Yet, in contrast to the usual treatments for depression, Sahaj Samadhi is natural and free of unwanted side effects. It is self-administered and self-empowering.
4)      Yoga can slow down brain aging

Though age is just a number, the body is on a clock whose pace of ticking sometimes lies in our hands. With innovation and advancement in medical sciences, our longevity has improved. The result is an increasing geriatric population with increasing number of cases with cognitive impairment and brain function related disorders like dementia and Alzheimer’s.

As medical science turns towards MBI or mind body interventions to find ways to delay this process of cognitive decline, a study carried out by Harris Eyre, Prabha Siddharth, BiancaAcevedo, among others, published in a leading journal called International Psychogeriatric found out that practicing Yoga for 12 to 24 weeks resulted in improved memory among patients over the age of 55 years who had been diagnosed with MCI or mild cognitive impairment. MCI is reported problems with memory, language, and incoherent thinking and judgment lapses, not in keeping with the normal process of aging.

Patients were made to practice Yoga over a 12 and 24 weeks or they underwent conventional memory enhancement training or MET. While memory improved through both the interventions, Yoga proved to be more effective with respect to executive functions. In treating depressive symptoms and building emotional resilience too, Yoga was found to be far more useful and effective.

The Yoga group “showed short- and long-term improvements in executive functioning as compared to MET, and broader effects on depressed mood and resilience. This observation should be confirmed in future clinical trials of yoga intervention for treatment and prevention of cognitive decline,” the study said.

Source: https://www.nbcnews.com/better/health/what-yoga-does-your-brain-ncna794531

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fimmu.2017.00670/full

https://uwaterloo.ca/news/news/yoga-and-meditation-improve-brain-function-and-energy-levels

https://www.jenreviews.com/yoga/

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Shankara Editorial Team

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