tional brain training in terms of efficacy, even though neither of these practices specifically involve mental exercise. As reported by the authors:

“The yoga group demonstrated a

statistically significant improvement in depression and visuospatial memory. We observed improved verbal memory perfor- mance correlated with increased connec- tivity between the DMN [default mode networks] and frontal medial cortex, pre- genual anterior cingulate cortex, right middle frontal cortex, posterior cingulate cortex, and left lateral occipital cortex. Improved verbal memory perfor-

mance positively correlated with increased connectivity between the language pro- cessing network and the left inferior frontal gyrus.

Improved visuospatial memory perfor-

mance correlated inversely with connectiv- ity between the superior parietal network and the medial parietal cortex … Yoga may be as effective as MET in improving func- tional connectivity in relation to verbal memory performance.”

Other Ways in Which Yoga Benefits Your Brain

Over the years, a number of studies

have homed in on the brain benefits of yoga. In addition to those already men- tioned, studies have found that:

• Twenty minutes of Hatha yoga im- proves speed and accuracy of mental processing to a greater degree than 20 minutes of aerobic exercise (jogging). Potential mechanisms here include en- hanced self-awareness and reduced stress.

• Yoga helps improve a variety of mental health problems, including psychiatric disorders like depression, anxiety, atten- tion-deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and schizophrenia, in part by increasing brain chemicals like gamma amino-butyric acid (GABA). GABA is responsible for blocking

nerve impulses, telling the adjoining nerve cells not to “fire” or send an im- pulse. Without GABA, your nerve cells fire frequently and easily, triggering anxiety disorders, seizures and condi- tions such as addiction, headache and cognitive impairments. Yoga also boosts serotonin, and some studies suggest yoga can have a similar effect to antidepressants. A 2017

study evaluated the effect of Iyengar yoga on adults diagnosed with major depres- sive disorder who were either not taking medication of had been on the same medication for three months. Here, those participating in two or three 90-minute yoga classes plus a half- hour session at home three or four times a week for three months experienced a reduction in symptoms by at least 50%. Dr. Chris Streeter, study author and as- sociate professor of psychiatry and neu- rology at Boston University School of Medicine, commented:

"While most pharmacologic treatment

for depression target monoamine sys- tems, such as serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine, this intervention targets the parasympathetic and gamma amino- butyric acid system and provides a new avenue for treatment.”

• Yoga helps improve teenager’s emo- tional resilience and ability to manage anger. As yoga educator and writer Iona Smith told HuffPost:

“During adolescence, the frontal lobes

of the brain (the seat of language and reason) are still being formed, leaving

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February 2020


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