A 2014 study revealed that practicing hatha yoga three times a week for eight weeks improved sedentary older adults' performance on cognitive tasks that are relevant to everyday life.
"Hatha yoga requires focused effort in moving through the poses, controlling the body and breathing at a steady rate," researchers said. "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."
"Participants in the yoga intervention group showed significant improvements in working memory capacity, which involves continually updating and manipulating information.” “They 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."
Previous studies have found that yoga can have immediate positive psychological effects by decreasing anxiety, depression and stress, researcher Neha Gothe said.
"These studies suggest that yoga has an immediate quieting effect on the sympathetic nervous system and on the body's response to stress," she said. "Since we know that stress and anxiety can affect cognitive performance, the eight-week yoga intervention may have boosted participants' performance by reducing their stress."
1. N. P. Gothe, A. F. Kramer, E. McAuley. The Effects of an 8-Week Hatha Yoga Intervention on Executive Function in Older Adults. The Journals of Gerontology Series A: Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences, 2014; 69 (9): 1109 DOI: 10.1093/gerona/glu095