Contrary to popular belief, yoga isn’t just about complicated poses that require inhuman levels of flexibility to perform. In fact, scientists have discovered that simple, gentle stretches can go a long way to protect and improve one’s memory.
Yoga and Memory: the Experiment
To prove the positive effect of yoga on memory retainment and improvement, scientists tested more than 100 adults aged 55 and over. The participants were previously sedentary people, which is an important factor. They were divided into two groups: the first one was assigned thrice-weekly Hatha yoga, while the others did stretching and strengthening classes, again three times a week.
After two months, the scientists did a series of information recall, task switching, and mental flexibility tests to see which group would perform better. Those who were in the yoga group did much better than those in the stretch-and-strength classes. Their working memory capacity had increased, and they were better at multi-tasking and managed to complete the tests faster and more accurately.
Gentle Stretching Is Key
Lead researcher Neha Gothe says that improving your memory through Hatha yoga doesn’t require you to tie up in knots. Instead, it’s about your focused effort and control in moving through the poses, as well as managing your breathing at a steady and relaxed rate. The goal isn’t just to move your body, it’s to focus on practicing yoga mindfully, so you’re aware of your breaths and body postures at all times.
Yoga won’t be a good fit for the absent-minded, says Gothe. If you get easily distracted, you could easily end up kissing the mat! If you’re new to it, instructors encourage you to keep your expectations low in the beginning as yoga doesn’t yield instant results. Keep coming back to it, and don’t be afraid to try out different classes with different teachers until you find the right fit for you.