Going With The Flow: How Yoga Can Alter Your Brainwaves

At the end of 2013, researchers from the Swami Vivekananda Yoga Anusandhana Samsthana University in India published a study showing that yoga improves mental performance in university students.

Yoga practitioners will be happy to hear that this activity doesn’t just have physical benefits, but it also seems to improve brain functioning.  In this study, researchers measured the brain waves of university students before and after a 3-week yoga program. They used a machine called the Brain Master to test for measures of coherent and integrated brain functioning.  The number and strength of connections between brain areas corresponds to the level of coherent brain functioning an individual has.  Results showed that after completing the yoga program, participants had significantly higher levels of coherent brain functioning.  

The level of coherent brain functioning, or Brain Wave Coherence, has implications in nearly all of our normal mental processes, including intelligence, creativity, emotional affect, reasoning, and anxiety levels.  In each individual, the researchers measured the correspondence between different types of brain waves to get the level of Brain Wave Coherence.  The researchers measured the coherence between Delta, Theta, Alpha, and Gamma brain waves.  At the end of the 21 days, the participants had significantly higher coherence between Alpha and Delta brain waves.  This result indicates that practicing yoga has the ability to increase coherent brain functioning.  Among other benefits, this increased mental performance can manifest in reduced anxiety, increased learning abilities, improved ethical and moral reasoning, and increased emotional stability.

Even though yoga studios have been popping up all across the country, and the health benefits have been noted, not a lot of research has been done on the effects of yoga on the brain.  Since there were only 30 participants in the current study, further research must be done to support these finding  However, the findings are promising for those who enjoy their daily dose of asanas.

Full article: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3890927/?report=printable#ref14

Source:

Ganpat, T. S., Nagendra, H. R., & Selvi, V. (2013). Efficacy of yoga for mental performance in university students. Indian Journal of Psychiatry, 55(4), 349.

About Lydia Marks