Yoga Effects on Brain Health: A Systematic Review of the Current Literature.

Author: Gothe NP1, Khan I1, Hayes J2, Erlenbach E1, Damoiseaux JS2
1Department of Kinesiology and Community Health, University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign.
2Department of Psychology and Institute of Gerontology, Wayne State University.
Conference/Journal: Brain Plast.
Date published: 2019 Dec 26
Other: Volume ID: 5 , Issue ID: 1 , Pages: 105-122 , Special Notes: doi: 10.3233/BPL-190084. , Word Count: 220

Yoga is the most popular complementary health approach practiced by adults in the United States. It is an ancient mind and body practice with origins in Indian philosophy. Yoga combines physical postures, rhythmic breathing and meditative exercise to offer the practitioners a unique holistic mind-body experience. While the health benefits of physical exercise are well established, in recent years, the active attentional component of breathing and meditation practice has garnered interest among exercise neuroscientists. As the scientific evidence for the physical and mental health benefits of yoga continues to grow, this article aims to summarize the current knowledge of yoga practice and its documented positive effects for brain structure and function, as assessed with MRI, fMRI, and SPECT. We reviewed 11 studies examining the effects of yoga practice on the brain structures, function and cerebral blood flow. Collectively, the studies demonstrate a positive effect of yoga practice on the structure and/or function of the hippocampus, amygdala, prefrontal cortex, cingulate cortex and brain networks including the default mode network (DMN). The studies offer promising early evidence that behavioral interventions like yoga may hold promise to mitigate age-related and neurodegenerative declines as many of the regions identified are known to demonstrate significant age-related atrophy.

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KEYWORDS: Cognition; brain; yoga review

PMID: 31970064 PMCID: PMC6971819 DOI: 10.3233/BPL-190084