It’s a well-known fact that yoga and meditation can be incredibly beneficial for the brain. However, until recently, little was understood about the relationship between yoga and dementia. Recent studies have shown that yoga may be one of the most powerful tools in fighting dementia. A study completed by Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center discussed the relationship between stress and dementia and expounded how the stress reduction benefits of yoga and meditation may slow, or even prevent, the development of Alzheimer’s and dementia.
This study consisted of 14 adults between the ages of 55 and 90, all of whom were diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment. Of adults diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment, 50% are expected to develop dementia within five years. The study split the participants in two groups: one received normal care and the other participated in a yoga and meditation program directed at reducing stress.
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In later fMRI scans, the group that participated in yoga and meditation showed less atrophy of the hippocampus and higher functioning connectivity in the default mode network. These are two areas linked to the development of Alzheimer’s and dementia.
In addition, a UCLA study accomplished the first known memory-loss reversal of an Alzheimer’s patient. This was done using a combination of diet, exercise, meditation, yoga, sleep, oral health, hormones, and vitamins and supplements.
Can yoga and meditation cure dementia and Alzheimer’s?
Yoga and meditation are not a cure. There is currently no known cure for Alzheimer’s or dementia and even if someone is regularly practicing yoga and meditation, it is not a guarantee that they will never develop Alzheimer’s or any other form of dementia.
That being said, the science all points to one conclusion: yoga and meditation definitely help.
Yoga and meditation help reduce stress and strengthen the brain in ways that are directly linked to the areas that are affected by Alzheimer’s and dementia. Another study completed by UCLA argued that yoga and meditation are even more powerful at strengthening the brain than crossword puzzles and brain games. In this study, one group of patients completed a three-month yoga and meditation course involving kundalini yoga and Kirtan Kriya meditation while another group participated in memory exercises and brain training.
Both groups experienced improved verbal memory skills, however, the group that participated in yoga and meditation also experienced higher improvements in visual-spatial memory, reducing depression and anxiety, resisting stress, and coping with their situation. Both groups had positive changes in their brain connectivity, but the yoga and meditation group had higher rates of change and a more consistent level of positive change.
Get on the yoga mat for your brain’s sake
Regardless of your age or physical and mental abilities, yoga is beneficial. Even if you are young and come from a family with no history of Alzheimer’s or dementia, it is a good idea to start your yoga and meditation practice sooner rather than later. More yoga means a stronger brain, and a stronger brain means less chance of developing Alzheimer’s or dementia.