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Study reports Hatha Yoga can boost cognition in elderly

By Sravanth Verma     Aug 23, 2014 in Health
Preliminary investigations reported in a new study published in the Journals of Gerontology suggest that the practice of hatha yoga helps older people relax, and also boosts brain function.
The study conducted in the Exercise Psychology Laboratory at the University of Illinois followed 108 adults aged between 55 and 79. 61 of them participated in hatha yoga — the yogic practice that involves asanas and physical postures. The others met for the same number and length of sessions for stretching and toning exercises, and no yoga. Eight weeks later, the group that participated in yoga three times a week performed better on cognitive tests than it had before the start of classes. The stretching and toning group showed no statistically significant difference in cognitive performance. The paper says that the difference in performance between the groups is not the result of age, gender, social status or other similar factors.
"Hatha yoga requires focused effort in moving through the poses, controlling the body and breathing at a steady rate," said Neha Gothe, who led the study as a doctoral student with professor Edward McAuley. "It is possible that this focus on one's body, mind and breath during yoga practice may have generalized to situations outside of the yoga classes, resulting in an improved ability to sustain attention."
McAuley also reported that the hatha yoga participants "were also able to perform the task at hand quickly and accurately, without getting distracted. These mental functions are relevant to our everyday functioning, as we multitask and plan our day-to-day activities."
Hatha yoga is an ancient practice that originates in India. It is one of the many systems of yogic practice in the Hindu way of life. Over the last century, hatha yoga has also caught on in the Western world. According to the 2012 Yoga in America study, over 20 million Americans practice yoga.
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