What you didn’t know about the science of Yoga

What do you know about Yoga?

Even if Yoga is often reduced to a series of poses that involve stretching and other complex movements, improving flexibility and strength and reducing and relaxing the body, you probably know that traditional yoga is a spiritual practice developed in India. It seeks to give us the tools to establish health, happiness and peace with ourselves, each other and our environment

What does science say about it?

Despite all of this being certainly true, science suggests it might also have physical and measurable benefits on our brain: yoga can enhance our brain function and structurally rewire our brain in an observable and measurable way.

When we go to the gym and lift a dumbbell once, we’ll hardly see any benefits. On the other side, when we start lifting that dumbbell for a few minutes every day, we’ll start witnessing our biceps slowly but steadily getting stronger.

In a very similar way, more than changing our physical bodies due to the asana practice, when we start consistently practising yoga in a more holistic way, we start slowing down and paying attention to both our mental and body states. Thanks to the concept of neuroplasticity, the property of our brain to be able to change and evolve throughout our life, our brain cells start to develop and reinforce new neural synapses (or neural connections). Our focus and concentration ability improve, and changes occur in brain struc­ture as well as function, resulting in improved cog­nitive skills. Similarly to other high-intensity cardio workouts like running, yoga has been proven to strengthen parts of the brain that play a key role in memory, attention, awareness and language.

For how long should one practise yoga before one starts seeing results?

In a review published in the Brain Plasticity journal in 2019, researchers looked at 11 previous studies that focused on the relationship between yoga practice and brain health. The review included two types of research: investigations that had participants with no yoga background taking up the practice over a period of 10 to 24 weeks—with brain health markers checked at the beginning and end of the time frame—and studies that measured brain differences between individuals who regularly practised yoga and those who didn’t.

The benefits of yoga are often believed to be limited to our physical body; however, I hope this brief article showed you how its effects could be much bigger than that.

Once we start holistically practising yoga across its three main components that cater to our physical, mental, and spiritual well-being through poses (asanas), breathwork (pranayama), and meditation, we can trigger actual structural changes in our brain and access more content, healthier life.

Thank you for reading!