Yogis may be enjoying a surprising benefit when they unroll their mats and strike a pose. A new study finds that just 20 minutes of hatha yoga stimulates brain function.
Researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign enlisted 30 subjects to take tests of working memory and inhibitory control, two measures of brain function associated with the ability to focus, retain, and use new information, the researchers said.
Subjects who took a single, 20-minute yoga session were significantly faster and more accurate on their tests than subjects who walked or jogged on a treadmill for 20 minutes.
Participants on the treadmill exercised with the goal of maintaining 60 to 70 percent of their maximum heart rate throughout the exercise session. “This range was chosen to replicate previous findings that have shown improved cognitive performance in response to this intensity,” the researchers said.
“Yoga is an ancient Indian science and way of life that includes not only physical movements and postures but also regulated breathing and meditation,” said study lead Neha Gothe. “The practice involves an active attentional or mindfulness component but its potential benefits have not been thoroughly explored.”
Subjects who practiced yoga performed a 20-minute sequence of seated, standing, and supine yoga postures, with the class ending in a meditative posture and deep breathing.
“It appears that following yoga practice, the participants were better able to focus their mental resources, process information quickly, more accurately and also learn, hold and update pieces of information more effectively than after performing an aerobic exercise bout,” Gothe said.
“The breathing and meditative exercises aim at calming the mind and body and keeping distracting thoughts away while you focus on your body, posture or breath,” she said. “Maybe these processes translate beyond yoga practice when you try to perform mental tasks or day-to-day activities.”
Findings, announced June 5, appear in the Journal of Physical Activity and Health.
A separate study published last month finds that twice-weekly yoga sessions can reduce high blood pressure. In the study, researchers led by Dr. Debbie Cohen of the University of Pennsylvania tracked 58 women and men, aged 38 to 62, for 24 weeks.
Another study published earlier this year in the journal Frontiers in Psychiatry found that the practice may soothe depression and help sleep problems.
According to the American Dance Therapy Association (ADTA): Based on the understanding that the body and mind are interrelated, dance/movement therapy (D/MT) is defined as the psychotherapeutic use of movement to further the emotional, cognitive, physical, and social integration of the individual. Dance/movement therapy is practiced in mental health, rehabilitation, medical, educational, and forensic settings, and in nursing homes, day care centers, disease prevention, and health promotion programs. The dance/movement therapist focuses on movement behavior as it emerges in thetherapeutic relationship. Expressive, communicative, and adaptive behaviors are all considered for both group and individual treatment. Body movement as the core component of dance simultaneously provides the means of assessment and the mode of intervention for dance/movement therapy.
I often define D/MT to clients as psychotherapy that is not limited to talking but encompasses the full range of human expression, including movement such as gestures and or postures, drawing, writing, drama, music and other expressions that can have a therapeutic benefit for the client(s).
Dance Movement Therapy is a creative arts therapy rooted in the expressive nature of dance. Since dance/movement comes from the body it is considered the most fundamental of the arts and is a direct expression (and experience) of the self. Dance/movement is a basic form of authentic communication, and as such it is an especially effective medium for therapy.
Dance/movement therapists (R-DMT or BC-DMT) work with individuals of all ages, groups and families in a wide variety of settings. They focus on helping their clients improve self-esteem and body image, develop effective communication skills and relationships, expand their movement vocabulary, gain insight into patterns of behavior, as well as create new options for coping with problems. Movement is the primary medium DMT’s use for observation, assessment, research, therapeutic interaction, and interventions.
DMT’s work in settings that include psychiatric and rehabilitation facilities, schools, nursing homes, drug treatment centers, counseling centers, medical facilities, crisis centers, and wellness and alternative health care centers.