So, You Think You Are Smart?

20 Minutes To Higher Brain Cell Count

A single session of yoga produces enhanced learning capacity.

so you think you are smart

so you think you are smart

Who doesn’t want more focus and ability to take in, retain and utilize new information? That would mean the ability to learn new movements in sports and languages besides maintaining one’s razor sharp mind. Researchers writing in the Journal of Physical Activity and Health examined 30 young female undergrads who went through yoga sessions and were tested to see the effects translated into their everyday college lives.


One way to get an instant shot of brain power is to do a single 20-minute Hatha yoga session. Immediate effects include improved working memory and inhibitory control (calmness). Yogis outperformed people doing other types of aerobic exercises when it came to testing for learning ability.

“Yoga is an ancient Indian science and way of life that includes not only physical movements and postures but also regulated breathing and meditation,” Neha Gothe, the graduate student at the University of Illinois at Urbana- Champaign who led the study, told the media. “The practice involves an active attentional or mindfulness component but its potential benefits have not been thoroughly explored.”


“Enhanced self-awareness that comes with meditational exercises is just one of the possible mechanisms. Besides, meditation and breathing exercises are known to reduce anxiety and stress, which in turn can improve scores on some cognitive tests.”

Participants also completed an aerobic exercise session where they walked or jogged on a treadmill for 20 minutes. Each subject worked out at a suitable speed and incline of the treadmill, with the goal of maintaining 60-70% of her maximum heart rate throughout the exercise session.

“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. 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.”

Gothe N, Pontefex MB, Hillman C, McAuley E. The Acute Effects of Yoga on Executive Function. Journal of Physical Activity & Health, 2013
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