(UR) Los Angeles — Learning how to embrace mental silence or do a few Downward Facing Dog poses just might keep your brain from becoming a human piñata as you age. A recent study suggests that the cognitive disarray that can result from aging — the loss of your mental goodies, you could say — can easily be prevented with just three months’ practice of yoga and meditation.
Researchers from the University of California-Los Angeles (UCLA), including senior author Dr. Helen Lavretsky, of the Department of Psychiatry just published their findings in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.
They found that the risk for developing dementia and other cognitive health issues, including Alzheimer’s disease, can be greatly lessened by practicing these ancient skills.
Participants in the study were 55 and older. They did kundalini yoga as well as meditation and chanting, known as Kirtan, for 12 weeks. At the end of the practice period, they fared better than the control group who simply did crossword puzzles or computer games and other, similar activities known to improve mental abilities in the elderly.
Not only did their visual-spatial memory improve, but they also reported lower levels of anxiety and stress.
There were physiological changes that were different in the yoga and meditation group as well. The researchers believe that the improvements in memory, mood, and stress resilience seen were likely due a boost in the production of a protein called brain-derived neurotrophic growth factor (BDNF).
BDNF is responsible for making better connections between brain cells, as well as maintaining the survival of existing brain cell connections.
The next time you head to a local yoga class, you might consider inviting grandma or grandpa to come along. They are much less likely to end up in a group of more than 5 million Americans currently suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. Or maybe, you can just take a class from this 93-year old yogi who once marched alongside Mahatma Gandhi.
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