Worried about fading brain power?
If you’re older than 27, you have good reason.
That’s the age when cognitive skills start to decline, according to new University of Virginia research. But while some changes in thinking and memory are inevitable as we age, the good news is that lifestyle seems to be able to blunt those effects — and keep many minds working sharply well into old age.
That’s reassuring, given headlines from the Alzheimer’s Association’s new annual report showing that every 70 seconds, someone in the U.S. develops Alzheimer’s (the most common form of dementia). Debilitating memory loss doesn’t happen to everyone, though. Learn what you can do to preserve yours.memory .
Booster #1. Take the stairs
Exercise benefits your head as much as the rest of your body, a growing number of studies indicate. Overall cardiorespiratory fitness also lowers the risk of obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular problems — all known risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease. Theories on why that’s so range from improved blood flow to the brain to less brain shrinkage.
Experts recommend making regular aerobic workouts part of your routine. Failing that, it appears that even small efforts add up. So avoid elevators. Park at the far end of the parking lot. Start by walking around your block in the evenings, and add a few minutes more each day.
Memory Booster #2: Change your wallpaper
When doing routine things, the brain runs on autopilot. Novelty, on the other hand, literally fires up the brain as new data creates and works new neural pathways.
So shake up what you see and do every day: If your computer screen background is “invisible” to you, run a program that mixes it up every day or every hour. Take a different route home from work. Brush your teeth with your nondominant hand. Buy, borrow, or download a book that makes you think about new ideas.
Memory Booster #3. Steal some zzz’s by daylight
It’s while you’re sleeping that your brain sorts, consolidates, and stores memories accumulated during the day — that’s why eight hours at night is so valuable. But a mere six-minute nap is as valuable as a full night’s sleep to short-term recall, according to German research. And a 90-minute nap has been shown to speed up the process that helps the brain consolidate long-term memories.
Memory Booster #4. Take a mental “photograph”
Memories aren’t just stored in one spot in the brain; bits of data are processed and stored in different areas. To help make the memory of an incident last, take a “snapshot” of it while you’re in the moment, using all your senses. Look around and think about what you see. Notice colors and textures. What do you smell? If you’re eating or drinking (or kissing), what’s the taste?
This “mental camera” trick can help you hang onto a happy memory longer. But it can also help you remember where you parked your car.
Memory Booster #5. Eat less – Eat Right
After only 12 weeks, healthy volunteers (average age 60) who reduced their daily calories by 30 percent scored 20 percent better on memory tests, University of Munster (Germany) researchers reported in January. The possible reason: decreased levels of insulin, created when the body processes food, and of the inflammation-associated molecule C-reactive protein. Both factors are linked to improved memory function.
The people in the study were cautioned not to consume fewer than 1,200 calories a day. If cutting back on your diet by nearly a third seems too daunting, focus on eating less fat, meat, and dairy products. Earlier this year, Columbia University Medical Center researchers reported that in a long-term study of more than 1,300 participants, those with the highest adherence to a Mediterranean diet — rich in vegetables, legumes, fish, and monounsaturated oils (like olive oil) but low in fat, beef, and dairy — had the lowest risk of developing mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease.
Memory Booster #6. Try a “brain-training” game — or join a “brain gym”
The science is promising, if not conclusive, as to whether so-called brain-fitness software can actually improve memory. A study in the April 2009 *Journal of the American Geriatric Society* shows that people over 65 who used a computerized cognitive training program for an hour a day, over a period of eight weeks, improved memory and attention more than a control group.
Memory Booster #7. Spend some time online
Neuroscientist Gary Small, director of the UCLA Memory & Aging Center and author of *iBrain*, says searching the Web is a bit like using a brain-training course. His researchers used MRI to measure brain activity in Web users ages 55 to 76; the net-savvy users showed twice as much brain activity, especially regarding decision making.
Memory Booster #8. Stop and sip a cuppa
Green and black teas have a protective effect on memory, possibly by influencing enzymes in the brain. The caffeine sparks concentration, too. And people who drink moderate amounts of coffee at midlife — as many as three to five cups — have lower odds of developing dementia in late life, Finnish and French researchers say.
Another benefit: Taking a coffee or tea break in your day (or three times a day) is a good opportunity for destressing.Memory
Booster #9. See a doctor if you feel depressed
Maybe it’s “just a mood.” But untreated depression is common and can impair memory. Talk therapy and/or antidepressant medication can resolve the problem. Two red flags worth mentioning to a physician: a loss of interest in things that once gave you pleasure and a persistent sense of hopelessness.
People at higher risk for depression include caregivers of older people and those who have a family history of depression.
Memory Booster #10. Take the “multi” out of your tasking
Especially when they’re trying to learn something new, people remember less well later if they were multitasking while learning, UCLA researchers have shown. If, for example, you’re studying while listening to the radio, your memory recall may be dependent on the music to help you later retrieve the information during the test — except, of course, that you can’t usually replicate the same circumstances (like music during a test).
Try to learn something new — reading a contract or directions, copying a skill — when you can give it your full concentration. Cut out distractions like the TV in the background or pausing every few seconds when you hear the “ding” of your e-mail or text-message inbox.
You CAN Train Your Body To Know When It’s Time To Sleep
When you go to bed, and when you get up, is the cornerstone to perfectly restful and totally refreshing sleep. Learn to sync your biological clock, so your body will know when to sleep and when to be alert.
Wake At The Same Time Every Day
A good night’s sleep actually starts in the morning. From the very first moment you open your eyes, light begins a brisk morning run down the optic path and arrives at the brain – the body’s biological clock. There it stimulates the creation of a morning buffet of hormones regulating growth and reproduction. This cerebral chemical brunch controls patterns of eating, sleeping, thinking, and even memory.
Sunlight Activates The Brain
Activating your brain at the same time every morning synchronizes your body’s biological clock. Your body then has a clear direction that at midnight it’s supposed to be asleep – at noon it’s supposed to be awake. Wake up at a different time every day and your biological clock stays out of sync. You feel groggy and hungover for hours. Even when you start to feel alert after that first jolt of hot morning Java, you still never achieve the mental edge you’re capable of.
Hit the Sheets Only When You’re Sleepy
Only go to bed when you’re SLEEPY, not just tired. Sleepy, as in your eyes are droopy and you keep losing track of what people are saying to you.
Get Up! Don’t Just Toss and Turn!
Sleeping from 11:00 PM until 2:30 AM, then tossing and turning until 4, before finally sleeping until 6, will give you eight hours in bed but only 4-1/2 hours of real sleep. That can actually inhibit your sleep drive and cause insomnia. To prevent that sleep issue, when you wake at 2:30 AM, get up and go into the living room and read a book. Being up increases your sleep drive desire, and make you sleepy enough to actually fall asleep when you return to bed.
A VERY Important Point
If you can’t sleep, DON’T stay in bed. A part of your mind will begin to associate the bed with being awake rather than sleeping. That can turn on a nasty “I’m-not-sleeping!” anxiety. This kind of anxiety can “rev your engines” when you get into bed. It’s one of the most insidious – and potent – causes of chronic insomnia.
Give Yourself at LEAST One Hour
Take one hour right before bed to prepare to sleep. You need this hour to wind down, prepare your mind, and transition from the one-who-can-do-everything into the one-who-can-sleep. Unfortunately, most people do not give themselves any sleep preparation time.
According to a 2007 poll, during the hour before bed 60 percent of us do household chores, 37 percent take care of children, 36 percent do activities with other family members, 36 percent are on the Internet, and 21 percent do work related to their jobs.
DANGER – Sunday Night Insomnia
Staying up late on Friday and Saturday nights and sleeping in on Saturday and Sunday mornings is frequently the reward we give ourselves after a hard week at work. Yet that little gift – even as small as it is – is enough to upset your biological clock. When you go to bed early on Sunday – your body clock is out of sync – you will not be ready to sleep. As a result you will not be the rested, smiling, happy camper that your co-workers expect Monday morning.
Follow these simple guidelines and “Sync Your Body’s Clock – Sleep Like A Baby!”
I have lived with major depression, PTSD, ADD, Fibromyalgia throughout my life. I’ve walked the dark streets when I had no home. The darkness of loneliness competing with the darkness of the night. Many times I failed, I was rejected and I got hurt physical and emotional. I have accepted my role in my personal failures caused by these conditions.
Now this is what I did:
I pressed the pause button to my life, refreshed my memory and made a clear passionate decision to change myself. I follow 7 rules to change my life…
I follow the advice of my inner self:
I have passion and empathy. I always love to learn new things. I have the interest and commitment to do what I love. There will be no regret because I am responsible for my decisions and actions.
We always fixate on physical strength. Mental strength makes our life focused, planned and loved.
Meditation recharges me:
I meditate every day to make life laser sharp and free from distraction. I fight every obstacle in my life. I have failed hundreds of times. But, I get back up. Meditation gives me the courage and determination to work against the current.
[Tweet “I meditate every day to make life laser sharp and free from distraction.”]
Mental strength is key:
We always fixate on physical strength. Mental strength makes our life focused, planned and loved. What makes a bigger impact than talent or intelligence? Mental strength.
Research is starting to reveal that your mental strength plays a more important role than anything else for achieving your goals. That’s good news because you can do a lot to develop mental strength.
Less virtual life, More real life:
I am limiting my online activities. I now key in on my real life rather than a virtual life. I spend too much time on the computer. I am changing that habit. I spend less time on the internet. I have started to gain courage, experience new things, face my fears, socialize with authentic interest, and talk with strangers every day.
[Tweet “Less virtual life, More real life:”]
Imagine just before – the moment of your death:
All the materialistic thinking, fear, desire, frustration, failure will look meaningless moments before your death. Make the right decision for your life, never wait for others approval. One right decision can change your life. Whenever I am in a trouble, I try to think that way. Then everything seems clear to me. I make the right choice.
I withdraw from rat race:
I have officially withdrawn myself from the rat race of life. It does not mean that I have lost against the difficulties of life. I don’t compete with other people. My competition is only with myself. Every day, I try to top my previous day’s performance. I am chasing my passion. I am determined to reach my goal.
[Tweet “I have officially withdrawn myself from the rat race of life.”]
Anonymous help and gifts:
I love to help anonymously. It gives me pleasure. I love to donate money to poor families anonymously despite having my own financial limitations. Helping people is the best part of life. I feel happy to see the smiling faces of those people.
Write a gratitude list every day:
I am grateful to the universe for whatever I get from life. I write a gratitude list in my journal every day. I am alive, having sound health, food to eat in the fridge, a place to live, the unconditional love of my service dog, time and tools to write, lead an independent life, get blessings from unknown people…
[Tweet “I am grateful to the universe for whatever I get from life.”]
A year ago I would have never guessed life would be the way it is now.
One of the most frustrating things about
#fibromyalgia is the brain fog.
I Have A Soft Spot for Sugar
The Truth is Sugar is Bad for You…
Some of my best memories of childhood revolve around my afternoon snack of Cinnamon Sugar Toast. Sad but true…
The first thing I say to anyone wanting to improve their diet is this: cut out the refined sugar.
Each passing day new research comes out linking refined sugar to heart disease, cancer, gastrointestinal distress, hormone disruption…the list keeps goes on and getting longer every day..
I’ll let the infographic below give you the jaw dropping stats.
It’s time to face the music: sugar is not your friend. That “twinkie little ho ho” will only give you blissful happiness for 2 minutes or less. But, when it is gone, you will feel worse than you did before.
Believe this: once you cut those foods out for good, you won’t miss them.
The best part of my job is sometimes the saddest. Sometimes when you find a gem it’s beauty is momentarily obscured by the rubble that surrounds it. I found this short film and was deeply moved. I offer it as an example of fine work on an extremely difficult subject.
“My Name is Lisa” is a short film about Alzheimer’s Disease, which is one of many serious and devastating diseases still without a cure. Alzheimer’s causes gradual memory loss.
This film was made for YouTube’s Project: Direct and it took 3RD PRIZE in the International short film competition
“My Name is Lisa” is a short film from SheltonFilms.com
My Name is Lisa
BEST SHORT FILM OF 2007 – YouTube
3RD PRIZE WINNER of PROJECT: DIRECT
SEMI-FINALIST IN NOW FILM FESTIVAL
Just like the rest of our bodies, our brains change as we age. Most of us notice some slowed thinking and occasional problems remembering certain things. However, serious memory loss, confusion and other major changes in the way our minds work are not a normal part of ageing. They may be a sign that brain cells are failing.
The brain has 100 billion nerve cells (neurons). Each nerve cell communicates with many others to form networks. nerve cell networks have special jobs. Some are involved in thinking, learning and remembering. Others help us see, hear and smell. Still others tell our muscles when to move.
To do their work, brain cells operate like tiny factories. They take in supplies, generate energy, construct equipment and get rid of waste. Cells also process and store information. Keeping everything running requires coordination as well as large amounts of fuel and oxygen.
In Alzheimer’s disease, parts of the cell’s factory stop running well. Scientists are not sure exactly where the trouble starts. But just like a real factory, backups and breakdowns in one system cause problems in other areas. As damage spreads, cells lose their ability to do their jobs well. Eventually, they die.
For more information on Alzheimer’s Disease please visit http://www.ALZ.org
Several years ago I listened to a lecture on cognition that changed the way I think about intelligence. This is the crux. There are two types of cognition. The first is normal cognition. This is the ability to retrieve knowledge from memory. When you are asked a question on a test and produce an answer, that’s a display of cognitive ability. The second type of cognition is metacognition; the ability to know whether or not you know.
Have you ever been asked a question that you knew the answer to, but you couldn’t find the right word? This is called the “tip of the tongue” phenomenon and I’m sure we’ve all experienced it. You know that you know the answer, but you fail to produce it. If someone said an answer, you would know instantly if it was correct or not. In these cases metacognition exists without cognition.
In short, cognition is knowing, metacognition is knowing if you know or not. Both can exist together, but many times they don’t.
How Does this Affect Intelligence?
So what importance does this have and how is it relevant to self improvement? The fact that there are two different kinds of cognitive ability means that there are different types of intelligence.
In traditional education, intelligence is measured by cognitive ability. For some people this is works well. They can easily produce everything they know on a test. But for others it doesn’t work out so well. The people that know something cold but can’t find the right words on a test are awarded with poor grades and considered inferior.
But does this inability make them any less intelligent? They know the answer. If the question came up on a task, they could refer to a book or a quick Google search. In reality they’re just as effective as the people that aced the test. They just can’t prove it as easily.
Unless you’re taking a test or playing Jeopardy, metacognition is more important to success than cognition. In real life, when you’re faced with a question the first decision is whether you know the answer or not. With strong metacognitive ability this is easy. If you know the answer, but can’t come up with it, you can always do a bit of research. If you know for sure that you don’t know, then you can start educating yourself. Because you’re aware of your ignorance, you don’t act with foolish confidence. The person who thinks they know something that they really don’t makes the worst decisions.
A person with poor cognitive ability, but great metacognitive ability is actually in great shape. They might do poorly in school, but when faced with a challenge they understand their abilities and take the best course of action. These people might not seem intelligent at first glance, but because they know what they know, they make better decisions and learn the most important things.
At the opposite end of the spectrum are people with great cognitive ability but poor metacognitive ability. These people are proclaimed geniuses at a young age for acing every test and getting great SAT scores. Unfortunately, they’ve been ruined by poor metacognition; they think they know everything but they really don’t. They are arrogant, fail to learn from mistakes, and don’t understand the nuances of personal relationships; showing disdain for persons with lower cognitive ability.
So who is superior? In a battle of wits the higher cognitive ability prevails, but life is not a single encounter. It is a series of experiments in succession, each building upon the last. Learning requires knowing what you don’t know, and taking steps to learn what you need to. People with poor metacognitive ability never realize that they don’t ‘get it’. They also don’t realize what’s important.
This doesn’t preclude them from material success. But, perhaps that’s a poor measurement of intelligence as well. There are many people who become rich and successful by their cleverness and cognitive ability, but as human beings are quite mediocre. Is the man that makes a million dollars, but is cruel and abusive to his employees and family, really more intelligent than the poor man who lives a modest and loving life? I don’t intend to demonize wealth, only to state that it should not be the measure of virtue.
Use your metacognitive ability
So what do we know and what do we not? And how can we tell the difference? There is so much to know in the world that the most brilliant human minds can grasp only the tiniest fraction. For this reason we should always be in doubt of what we know. The closed mind is oblivious to its surroundings, while the open mind absorbs them. Like a sponge, it soaks up observations, becoming fuller and more robust.
But we can’t live in total doubt. If we did we would never act, paralyzed by our inadequate knowledge. We must trust our intuition. If something makes you feel a certain way, that feeling is real and must be respected. Act based on your own convictions, not those of others, and keep an open ear for new ideas.
The most important mental power is the ability to know what you don’t know. The recognition of a fault is the first step to improvement. Don’t try to hide a lack of knowledge. People will see through it and you’ll appear foolish and arrogant. If you admit your ignorance, people will help you learn and respect your humility. For intelligent people this is the toughest lesson to learn. We are used to being right, and consider being wrong shameful. We’re afraid to lose status by looking stupid. This vain arrogance is a great weakness and the source of many problems. To crush it and embrace humility is the mark of true wisdom.
Health Benefits Within
From lowering blood pressure to increasing pain tolerance, the following health benefits can all be discovered within the body.
- Blood pressure. A consistent yoga practice decreases blood pressure through better circulation and oxygenation of the body.
- Pulse rate. A slower pulse rate indicates that your heart is strong enough to pump more blood with fewer beats. Regularly practicing yoga provides a lower pulse rate.
- Circulation. Yoga improves blood circulation. By transporting nutrients and oxygen throughout your body, yoga practice provides healthier organs, skin, and brain.
- Respiratory. Like the circulatory system, a lower respiratory rate indicates that the lungs are working more efficiently. Yoga decreases the respiratory rate through a combination of controlled breathing exercises and better fitness.
- Cardiovascular endurance. A combination of lower heart rate and improved oxygenation to the body (both benefits of yoga) results in higher cardiovascular endurance.
- Organs. Yoga practice massages internal organs, thus improving the ability of the body to prevent disease. Additionally, an experienced yoga practitioner becomes better attuned to her body to know at first sign if something isn’t functioning properly, thereby allowing for quicker response to head off disease.
- Gastrointestinal. Gastrointestinal functions have been shown to improve in both men and women who practice yoga.
- Immunity. Yoga practice has frequently been correlated with a stronger immune system.
- Pain. Pain tolerance is much higher among those who practice yoga regularly. In addition to pain tolerance, some instances of chronic pain, such as back pain, are lessened or eliminated through yoga (see below for more on back pain).
- Metabolism. Having a balanced metabolism results in maintaining a healthy weight and controlling hunger. Consistent yoga practice helps find the balance and creates a more efficient metabolism.
Health Benefits Without
Just as many health benefits occur within the body, there are many benefits that can actually be experienced from without the body. From better sleep to more energy and strength, this list provides several benefits found on the outside of the body.
- Aging. Yoga stimulates the detoxification process within the body. Detoxification has been shown to delay aging, among many other health benefits.
- Posture. The very nature of yoga teaches the practitioner how to hold and control one’s body in a more healthful position. Through consistent practice, your posture will improve so that you look more confident and healthy.
- Strength. One of the premises of yoga is that you are using the weight of your own body for overall strength. Find out more about how yoga works as an excellent method of strength training in this article.
- Energy. Regular yoga practice provides consistent energy. In fact, most yogis state that when you perform your yoga correctly, you will feel energized after your yoga session rather than tired.
- Weight. The benefits of a better metabolism along with the exercise of yoga work to keep your weight in check. Additionally, the stretching of muscles longwise helps to reduce the amount of cellulite that can build around muscles.
- Sleep. Because of the many benefits to both body and mind that a yoga routine can provide, many find that their sleep is much better. Read here for more on sleep and yoga, as well as some positions for helping induce sleep.
- Balance. An integral part of the yoga practice is balance and control over your body. With a consistent practice, you will find that your overall balance will improve outside the yoga class.
- Integrated function of the body. Yoga is derived from Sanskrit and means “to join together and direct one’s attention.” This is exactly what happens to your body after you start practicing yoga. Yogis find that their body works together much better, resulting in more graceful and efficient body movements.
- Body Awareness: Doing yoga will give you an increased awareness of your own body. You are often called upon to make small, subtle movements to improve your alignment. Over time, this will increase your level of comfort in your own body. This can lead to improved posture and greater self-confidence.
- Core strength. With a strong body core, you receive better posture and overall body strength. A strong core helps heal and reduce injuries. This is why a lot of athletes do yoga as cross training (boxers, MMA fighters, etc). Read how this swimmer uses yoga to strengthen her core and improve her swimming.
- Sexuality. Yoga can improve your sexuality through better control, more relaxation, and more self-confidence. Read more about the yoga and sexuality connection here.
Emotional Health Benefits
Due to the strong mind-body connection of yoga, there are many emotional benefits to be gained from a consistent yoga practice. Find out how yoga can help improve emotional health with this list.
- Mood. Overall well-being improves with yoga practice. The combination of creating a strong mind-body connection, creating a healthy body, and focusing inward can all lead to improvement in your mood.
- Stress Reduction. The concentration required during yoga practice tends to focus your attention on the matter at hand, thereby reducing the emphasis you may have been putting on the stress in your life.
- Anxiety. One benefit to the controlled breathing used in yoga is a reduction in anxiety. Learn more about how you can use yoga breathing to reduce your anxiety.
- Depression. Some believe the negative feelings that you may be repressing are brought to the surface during some types of yoga exercise. When this happens, the negative energy is no longer stuck within you, but released through exercise. Regularly releasing this negativity leads to a reduction of depression in many people.
- Self-acceptance. Focusing inward and realizing through your yoga practice that perfection is not the goal, self-acceptance begins to take over.
- Self-control. The controlled movements of yoga teach you how to translate that self-control to all aspects of your life.
- Mind-body connection. Few other exercises offer the same mind-body connection that yoga does. As you match your controlled breathing with the movements of your body, you retrain your mind to find that place of calm and peace that long-time yogis know.
- Positive outlook on life. Continued practice of yoga results in a balance of many hormones and nervous system, which brings about a more stable, positive approach to life.
- Hostility. Most yogis report a huge reduction in the amount of hostility they feel as well as a sense of control when anger flares. This calm effect is likely from the relaxation and meditation that is incorporated in their yoga practice that leads to an overall calming of the nervous system. Less hostility means lower blood pressure and stress and a healthier approach to life.
- Concentration. Researchers have shown that as little as eight weeks of yoga practice can result in better concentration and more motivation.
- Memory. Improved blood circulation to the brain as well as the reduction in stress and improved focus results in a better memory.
- Attention. The attention required in yoga to maintain the structured breathing in conjunction with yoga poses sharpens the ability to keep a sharp focus on tasks.
- Social skills. In yoga, you learn the interconnectedness of all of life. Your yoga practice soon evolves from a personal journey to one connecting to to the community at large where your social skills improve along with your yoga practice.
- Calmness. Concentrating so intently on what your body is doing has the effect of bringing calmness. Yoga also introduces you to meditation techniques, such as watching how you breathe and disengagement from your thoughts, which help calm the mind.
Several aspects of body chemistry such as glucose levels and red blood cells are affected by yoga. Learn how you can improve your body chemistry through yoga.
- Cholesterol. Yoga practice lowers cholesterol through increased blood circulation and burning fat. Yoga practice is a great tool to fight against harmful cholesterol levels.
- Lymphatic system. Your lymphatic system boosts your immunity and reduces toxins in your body. The only way to get your lymphatic system flowing well is by movement. The specific movements involved in yoga are particularly well-suited for promoting a strong lymphatic system.
- Glucose. There is evidence to suggest that yoga may lower blood glucose levels.
- Sodium. As does any good exercise program, yoga reduces the sodium levels in your body. In today’s world of processed and fast foods that are full of sodium, lessening these levels is a great idea.
- Endocrine functions. Practicing yoga helps to regulate and control hormone secretion. An improved endocrine system keeps hormones in balance and promotes better overall physical and emotional health.
- Triglycerides. Triglycerides are the chemical form of fat in the blood, and elevated levels can indicate a risk for heart disease and high blood pressure. A recent study shows that yoga can lead to “significantly lower” levels of triglycerides. Read more about the results of that study here.
- Red blood cells. Yoga has been shown to increase the level of red blood cells in the body. Red blood cells are responsible for carrying oxygen through the blood, and too few can result in anemia and low energy.
- Vitamin C. Vitamin C helps boost immunity, helps produce collagen, and is a powerful antioxidant; and a yoga regimen can increase the vitamin C in your body.
Exercise Health Benefits
As a form of exercise, yoga offers benefits that are sometimes not easily found among other exercise regimens. Check out these reasons to include yoga in your or your patient’s health program.
- Low risk of injury. Due to the low impact of yoga and the controlled aspect of the motions, there is a very low risk of injury during yoga practice compared to other forms of exercise.
- Parasympathetic Nervous System. In many forms of exercise, the sympathetic nervous system kicks in, providing you with that fight-or-flight sensation. Yoga does the opposite and stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system. The parasympathetic system lowers blood pressure and slows the pace of your breathing, which allows relaxation and healing.
- Muscle tone. Consistently practicing yoga leads to better muscle tone.
- Subcortex. Subcortical regions of brain are associated with well-being, and yoga is thought to dominate the subcortex rather than the cortex (where most exercise dominates).
- Reduced oxygen consumption. Yoga consumes less oxygen than traditional exercise routines, thereby allowing the body to work more efficiently.
- Breathing. With yoga, breathing is more natural and controlled during exercise. This type of breathing provides more oxygen-rich air for your body and also provides more energy with less fatigue.
- Balanced workout of opposing muscle groups. As with all of yoga, balance is key. If a muscle group is worked in one direction, it will also be worked in the opposite direction to maintain balance. This balance results in a better overall workout for the body.
- Non-competitive. The introspective and self-building nature of yoga removes any need of competition in the exercise regimen. With the lack of competition, the yogi is free to work slowly to avoid any undue injury as well as promote a more balanced and stress-free workout.
- Joint range of motion. A study at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine indicated that joint range of motion was improved by participants who practiced yoga.
- Eye-hand coordination. Without practice, eye-hand coordination diminishes. Yoga maintains and improves eye-hand coordination.
- Dexterity. The strong mind-body connection and flexibility gained from yoga leads to grace and skill.
- Reaction time. Research done in India shows that reaction time can be improved with specific yoga breathing exercises in conjunction with an already established yoga practice. The improvement was attributed to the faster rate of processing and improved concentration gained from yoga.
- Endurance. Working the entire body, yoga improves endurance and is frequently used by endurance athletes as a supplement to their sport-specific training.
- Depth perception. Becoming aware of your body and how it moves, as one does in yoga practice, leads to increased depth perception.
Doctors and nurses love yoga because studies indicate that it can help prevent the following diseases.
- Heart disease. Yoga reduces stress, lowers blood pressure, keeps off weight, and improves cardiovascular health, all of which lead to reducing your risk of heart disease.
- Osteoporosis. It is well documented that weight-bearing exercise strengthens bones and helps prevent osteoporosis. Additionally, yoga’s ability to lower levels of cortisol may help keep calcium in the bones.
- Alzheimer’s. A new study indicates that yoga can help elevate brain gamma-aminobutyric (GABA) levels. Low GABA levels are associated with the onset of Alzheimer’s. Meditation like that practiced in yoga has also been shown to slow the progression of Alzheimer’s.
- Type II diabetes. In addition to the glucose reducing capabilities of yoga, it is also an excellent source of physical exercise and stress reduction that, along with the potential for yoga to encourage insulin productionin the pancreas, can serve as an excellent preventative for type II diabetes.
Medical professionals have learned that the following diseases or disorders can all be helped by maintaining a yoga practice.
- Carpal tunnel syndrome. Individuals with carpal tunnel syndrome who practiced yoga showed greater improvement than those who wore a splint or received no treatment at all. Researchers saw improved grip strength and reduction of pain in the study participants.
- Asthma. There is some evidence to show that reducing symptoms of asthma and even reduction in asthma medication are the result of regular yoga.
- Arthritis. The slow, deliberate movement of yoga poses coupled with the gentle pressure exerted on the joints provides an excellent exercise to relieve arthritis symptoms. Also, the stress relief associated with yoga loosens muscles that tighten joints.
- Multiple sclerosis. According to this article, “yoga is now recognized as an excellent means of MS management.” Additionally, National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine is funding a clinical trial of yoga for treating multiple sclerosis.
- Cancer. Those fighting or recovering from cancer frequently take advantage of the benefits that yoga provides. Cancer patients who practice yoga gain strength, raise red blood cells, experience less nausea during chemotherapy, and have a better overall well-being.
- Muscular dystrophy. Using yoga in the early stages of muscular dystrophy can help return some physical functions. The practice of Pranayam yoga helped one teen regain many of his abilities lost to muscular dystrophy. Learn more in this article.
- Migraines. Regular yoga practice has been shown to reduce the number of migraines in chronic migraine sufferers. This post describes how yoga can reduce migraines.
- Scoliosis. Yoga can straighten the curvature of the spine associated with scoliosis. Find out how this yogi cured her scoliosis and continues to help others as well.
- Chronic bronchitis. Exercise that does not elevate respiration, yet increase oxygen levels in the body is ideal for treating chronic bronchitis. Luckily, yoga can do this, as well as aerate the lungs and provide energy.
- Epilepsy. Focusing on stress reduction, breathing, and restoring overall balance in the body are the focus of how yoga can help prevent epileptic seizures.
- Sciatica. The intense pain associated with sciatica can be alleviated with specific yoga poses. Here are 10 great ones to help relieve pain.
- Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Studies of people with OCD have shown that practicing yoga has lead to a reduction in symptoms–resulting in less medication or medication no longer needed.
- Constipation. Due to the practice of yoga and overall better posture, the digestive and elimination systems work more efficiently. If the practitioner also has a healthy diet, any constipation will be eliminated through yoga.
- Allergies. Using a neti pot to clear the sinuses is an ancient form of yoga to help reduce or eliminate allergy symptoms. Certain types of breathing can also help clear the nasal passages.
- Menopause. Yoga practice can help control some of the side effects of menopause.
- Back pain. Yoga reduces spinal compression and helps overall body alignment to reduce back pain. Find a yoga pose to help lessen back pain here.