The study conducted by Indian-origin student Neha Gothe and her group at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign showed that just yoga postures called Hatha Yoga for 20 minutes can stimulate brain function immediately, compared to similar number of students who went for moderate to vigorous aerobic exercise for the same amount of time. All the 30 participants were young, female, undergraduate students.
Hatha yoga or a set of asanas or postures is now a generic term that refers to Yoga postures and B.S. Iyengar was one of its modern proponents. It helps to open the many channels of the body—especially the main channel, the spine— so that energy can flow freely.
Neha Gothe said, “The practice involves an active attentional or mindfulness component but its potential benefits have not been thoroughly explored.” The session she conducted for 20 minutes daily included progression of seated, standing and supine yoga postures that included isometric contraction and relaxation of different muscle groups and regulated breathing.
The session concluded with a meditative posture and deep breathing or pranayama.
The group was compared with those participants who had opted for aerobic exercise, jogging on a treadmill for 20 minutes, maintaining 60 to 70 per cent maximum heart rate during the exercise. “This range was chosen to replicate previous findings that have shown improved cognitive performance in response to this intensity,” Goethe said in her paper.
Gothe and her team found that participants showed more improvement in their reaction time and accuracy on cognitive tasks after yoga practice compared to those after the aerobic exercise session. Many of those on aerbics showed no significant changes in their working memory and inhibitory control scores in the test.
Information process is high among those who followed yoga practice, says Neha Goethe, whose findings have been published in the Journal of Physical Activity and Health.