Is Yoga a Mental Workout, Too?

The physical benefits of yoga, such as increased strength, greater flexibility, and surges in feel-good chemicals like dopamine, have been proven through science. But is there a psychological component to this type of exercise, as well?

The Kripalu Institute for Extraordinary Living is attempting to scientifically evaluate the effects yoga has on those who practice. The institute supports a team of researchers from Harvard Medical School who are researching the impact yoga has on a wide range of mental health issues.

One such study funded by the institute is using brain-imaging studies to better understand how contemplative practices such as yoga and meditation can alter behavior, mood, and states of consciousness. Dr. Sara Lazar, principal investigator, is analyzing these images to assess if a yoga practice can change the actual structure of the brain. If so, how do these changes influence attention, fluid intelligence, and cognitive and emotional functioning? Previous work by Dr. Lazar has shown that the brains of individuals who regularly practiced Buddhist meditation are different from the brains of a control group who did not. This study will evaluate a group of highly experienced yogis to investigate whether they show similar changes to the meditation group.

Several other studies focusing on the link between yoga and mental health are ongoing. One study is attempting to reduce posttraumatic stress disorder severity and symptoms through yoga, and is currently recruiting military veterans for the next phase of research. Another study is using yoga as a preventive mental health measure in high school students — and initial results show that it improves mood states and resiliency when compared to traditional physical education. A third study involving yoga in mindful eating and weight gain prevention programs has documented changes in participants physical and mental health.

Do you recommend yoga to your clients? Do you think yoga helps psychologically as well as physically?

 

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2 Responses

  1. I’d say it is, keeps you healthy and strong from the inside out.
    Recently i started yoga class and needed new pants so i stumbled upon http://www.karmicfit.com/Product/ProductList/yoga-women-yoga-pants they have some really nice looking ones, Just thought i’d share my new finds wit my fellow yogis. Love your blogs, Keep up the great work.

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