*Disclaimer* You won’t become a rocket scientist or be able to cure cancer, but you might just become smarter with just 20 minutes of hatha yoga practice.
Neha Goethe studied the effects of yoga on cognitive function in adults for her PhD. In a paper published by the Journal of Physical Activity and Health, Goethe and colleagues studied 30 young female undergrads who had never practised yoga or other mind-body exercises.
All of the participants were put into the 3 test conditions on 3 different days – 20 minutes of yoga, jogging or running at 60% to 70% of the maximum heart rate, or being at rest. They were not to have done any physical exercise on the test days.
On the days that the participants did yoga, their cognitive tests did better in terms of speed and accuracy. Possible reasons that Sarang and Telles explored included yoga practice helps to reduce anxiety – this in turn increases cognitive performance.
The following yoga postures were practised for this study:
- Standing forward bend – Uttanasana – 1 minute
- Tree pose – Vrikshasana – 1 minute
- Triangle pose – Trikoasana – 2 minutes
- Reverse triangle pose – Parivrtta trikoasana – 2 minutes
- Downward facing dog – Adho mukha shvanasana – 2 minutes
- Easy camel pose – Ustrasana – 2 minutes
- Hare pose – Shashankasana – 2 minutes
- Sun salutation – Surya Namaskaar – 4 minutes
- Deep breathing in lotus pose – Padmasana pranayama – 4 minutes
Personal opinion, the poses are great for balancing and strength. These activate mental processes for proprioception or the knowledge of where your body parts are. You must be thinking… Of course I know where my parts are. My newbie students who are trying the Camel pose for the first time struggle to find their ankles. Its not easy when you are a newbie to yoga.
Most researchers found that vigorous exercise leads to better cognitive function, due to cardiovascular effects and the release of endorphins that enables relaxation. However, I personally find that yoga requires a larger amount of body control. When your mind has to act to tell your body what to do, the neurological synapsing (or links) are strengthened. Bodily-kinaesthetic intelligence is recognised as one of the multiple intelligences. Even if you can’t get academic smarts, you sure can start to get more kinaesthetically intelligent.
Try this 20 minute workout now.
Gothe N, Pontefex MB, Hillman C, McAuley E. The Acute Effects of Yoga on Executive Function. Journal of Physical Activity & Health. 2013 May;10(4):488-95
Sarang SP, Telles S. Immediate effect of two Yoga-based relaxation techniques on performance in a letter-cancellation task. Percept Mot Skills. 2007;105:379-385.