What’s This Research About?

The list of articles and claims promoting the benefits of yoga is long, both for its physical and mindful components, as well as its enhancing effects on the mind. Brain health and improving cognitive functioning are hot topics, not only in the layman press, but also in scientific research. High numbers of people suffering from chronic diseases such as dementia and cognitive decline together with higher demands on performance and cognition in our lives, in school and at work calls for interventions that we know are effective in dealing with these issues.

Cognition is a broad term used to describe several mental actions, processes, and functions such as attention, memory, and executive functions. Executive functions usually involve inhibitory control, working memory, and cognitive flexibility. These might sound like complex terms, and they are, but we use them all in our everyday lives. To resist our initial impulse to act or focus on something, we use our inhibitory control. Working memory involves holding information in mind while performing one or several tasks, for example, to remember a question you want to ask while you listen to an ongoing conversation. It is critical for problem-solving. When you need to change your priorities or how you deal with demands, it requires cognitive flexibility to change perspective, reflect, and task-switch.

Earlier research has confirmed positive relationships between acute and chronic engagement in physical activity and cognition. What does the relationship look like between yoga and cognition? The authors of this meta-analysis aimed to address the size of the effect that yoga interventions have on cognition.

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Sara Hoy

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