Just 20 minutes of yoga could help your brain function better, according to a small new study.
Researchers found that people did better -- both speed-wise and accuracy-wise -- on brain functioning tests after just 20 minutes of Hatha yoga, compared with aerobic exercise.
"It appears that following yoga practice, the participants were better able to focus their mental resources, process information quickly, more accurately and also learn, hold and update pieces of information more effectively than after performing an aerobic exercise bout," study researcher Neha Gothe, a professor of kinesiology, health and sport studies at the university, said in a statement. Gothe conducted the study while a graduate student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
"The breathing and meditative exercises aim at calming the mind and body and keeping distracting thoughts away while you focus on your body, posture or breath. Maybe these processes translate beyond yoga practice when you try to perform mental tasks or day-to-day activities," he added.
The study, published in the Journal of Physical Activity and Health, included 30 young female college students who underwent 20 minutes of yoga followed by meditation and deep breathing, as well as 20 minutes of aerobic exercise (jogging on a treadmill).
Researchers had the participants do cognitive testing after the yoga session and after the aerobic exercise session, and they found that the scores were better on the tests after the yoga session than the aerobic exercise.
"Enhanced self-awareness that comes with meditational exercises is just one of the possible mechanisms," Gothe said in the statement. "Besides, meditation and breathing exercises are known to reduce anxiety and stress, which in turn can improve scores on some cognitive tests."
Another mind-body practice that could help to boost memory? The ancient Chinese exercise of Tai Chi, which was shown in a Journal of Alzheimer's Disease study to improve memory scores among practitioners.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that researchers at Wayne State University conducted the study. The lead study researcher actually conducted the study while a student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, but is now employed at Wayne State.