Improving neuroplasticity, resilience, which is the body's ability to adapt to stress, cognitive function and the energy at our disposal ... all with a yoga session! Yoga and meditation, in fact, have been shown to bring all these benefits, as evidenced by two scientific studies published in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience and Mindfulness (Cahn et al, Front. Hum. Neurosci, 2017 - Luu et al, Minfulness, 2017).
The first research analyzed the health status of 40 people, average age 35, participating in a 3-month yoga retreat. What emerged was that yoga led to a reduction in perceived anxiety, stress and depression in all volunteers. But the results were also measurable. In fact, the researchers found that the yoga sessions had led to an increase in plasma levels of BDNF, or brain neutrophic factor, which is a protein that promotes plasticity, development and survival of neurons, especially in those brain areas responsible for learning, memorization and higher cognitive functions such as the hippocampus. Not only that, an increase in the cortisol awakening response, which is different from baseline cortisol was also observed. Basal cortisol, in fact, is generally measured in the afternoon or evening and indicates the state of stress to which the body is subjected. Instead, the cortisol awakening response is a value that decreases within thirty minutes from waking up and indicates the body's preparation for the day ahead and is seen as a measure of resilience. Finally, yoga made it possible to increase the values ??of anti-inflammatory substances, such as interleukin 10, and to decrease the values ??of pro-inflammatory substances, such as interleukin 12.
But it doesn't take a three-month retreat to see the benefits of yoga. In fact, the second study estimated that 25 minutes of yoga sessions a day are enough to increase energy and cognitive functions. In particular, the researchers recruited 30 volunteers asking them to perform, in random order, 25 minutes of yoga session, 25 minutes of meditation and 25 minutes of reading. What emerged is that both meditation and yoga are capable of improving the available energy and cognitive functions, but that yoga has shown more powerful effects than meditation alone. Researchers explain these properties of yoga by the fact that yoga practice stimulates the release of endorphins in the body, increases blood flow and avoids constant brooding over the same obsessive thoughts. This frees up resources for the brain and recharges the body with energy.