As we become older, our body starts to change and age, and our brain does not escape the ageing process. With age, the structure of the brain begins to decline and this can lead to a decrease in cognitive function and memory. In particular, the cerebral cortex (the area of the brain responsible for memory, attention, perception, and language) and prefrontal cortex (the area responsible for focus, decision making, and social behaviour) become thinner, showing a reduction in function. So, how would we be able to slow down these changes, and potentially stop them from happening in the future? Some studies suggest that yoga could be the answer; but why yoga?
Yoga is an ancient practice that combines exercise and dynamic movement with a focus on breathing and connecting to the body. Though it is often seen as a gentle exercise, it has been shown to have the same, if not greater, health benefits that other aerobic exercise that is similar. Regular exercise in any capacity will help to improve your general health and wellness, and yoga is an accessible exercise for any fitness or mobility level.
Yoga’s benefits reach far beyond the physical. Due to the dynamic movements, stretches, and focus on breathing, yoga involves a lot of mental work in a positive way. It has been called by some as a kind of therapy as it can assist people who struggle with anxiety and depression by encouraging a more conscious connection to the body. Overall an increased awareness of your body and breath will help to improve your mental health.
Increased Neuroplasticity and Growth
While the above points affect your general physical and mental health, which will help to slow the effects of ageing, yoga also has a much more direct link to ageing in the brain. Studies have shown that older adults who practice yoga regularly had thickening in the areas of the brain that we associate with memory and cognitive function. This suggests that yoga was helping to prevent the degeneration that normally occurs in the brain with age. There is also evidence to suggest that yoga can help to improve neuroplasticity, which is a process that allows for new connections to be made in the brain. Neuroplasticity decreases naturally with age and if yoga could increase this function in the brain, there is the possibility for you to continue to learn new things, retain memory function, and keep your brain ‘young’.
In conclusion, while we cannot stop the hands of time permanently when it comes to our bodies, we can slow down the effects of ageing through regular yoga practice. Yoga stimulates the body, brain, and mind – and has been shown to improve brain function and reduce the effects that ageing can have on the brain.
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