Women's Health

New Studies Validate Benefits of Yoga

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Scientific studies supporting claims of the benefits of yoga were once rare. But as yoga grown in popularity, it seems the ancient practice has gained popularity among researchers, too. In the last month alone there have been several studies about yoga and meditation practices that add to a growing body of research proving that yoga and other mindfulness practices are effective ways to bolster both physical and mental health.

20 Minutes of Yoga Improves Brain Function

Researchers have found that just 20 minutes of hatha yoga followed by conscious breathing and meditation significantly improved study participants’ concentration and working memory. When 30 female students from Illinois University jogged for 20 minutes, on the other hand, they did not perform as well. The study, which was recently published in the Journal of Physical Activity and Health, asked participants to complete a test after the yoga or jogging to assess brain function. “’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,” said Neha Gothe, the study’s author and a professor of kinesiology at Wayne State University in Detroit.

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Mindfulness Meditation Significantly Lowers Anxiety

A new study published in the Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience found that anxiety levels could be lowered by as much as 39 percent by practicing mindfulness meditation—a secular form of meditation where one practices mindfulness by focusing on the breath. Researchers used brain scans to measure the brain activity of 15 volunteers experiencing normal levels of anxiety before and after meditation. The participants had never practiced meditation before. “This showed that just a few minutes of mindful meditation can help reduce normal everyday anxiety,” the study’s author Fadel Zeidan said.

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Yoga May Lower Blood Pressure

Yoga might help lower high blood pressure, according to a study presented at the annual scientific meeting of the American Society of Hypertension. The study, which is still considered preliminary until it is accepted into a peer reviewed journal, involved 58 women and men between 38 and 62 years old. Those who practiced yoga two to three times a week showed an average drop in blood pressure from 133/80 to 130/77. There was a smaller decrease in participants who changed their diets. Yoga alone was surprisingly more effective at lowering blood pressure than yoga and altering diet, though study authors hypothesized that those participants who were tasked with both might have been less able to stick to the program since both are time consuming.

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