Brain-Friendly Yoga

Brain-Friendly Yoga

Julia Roberts, Madonna, Colin Farrell and Dr. Mehmet Oz all do poses—yoga poses, that is. They aren’t alone: over 20 million other North Americans also practice the Indian-originated exercise of yoga. And when you look at all the benefits yoga has to offer, especially for your brain, it’s easy to understand why the yoga-craze is so popular.

Hatha yoga combines breathing techniques with poses that reduce stress, promote blood flow, flexibility and mental focus. It has been shown to ease everything from chronic lower back pain and chronic inflammation, to depression and elevated blood pressure. Now a study shows that for folks 59 to 77 it can also boost brainpower: Mental flexibility, information recall and task-switching abilities were far better in Hatha yoga participants than a group who only did stretching and toning exercises.

What’s the difference? We suspect Hatha is brain-friendly because of its emphasis on stress-busting deep breathing (that provides more oxygen to those brain cells and protection of memory connections!) and intentional focus on slow movement that also helps control stress responses. Want to try? Go to and try this “Yoga Starter” and other yoga instruction videos.

Medically reviewed in March 2019.

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