Can meditation and yoga affect the physical structure of our brains?
Scientific research shows that yoga and meditation have numerous benefits, all leading to an overall increase in quality of life, including better sleep, an enhanced ability to pay attention, as well as decreased stress, depression and anxiety.
But how can these changes be explained by science?
It is well known that repetitively engaging in a behavior leads to changes in our brain -- this is called neuroplasticity. So why wouldn't regular yoga and meditation affect our brains too? According to studies by neuroscientists such as Sara Lazar from Massachusetts General Hospital, and Richard Davidson from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, yoga and meditation do actually affect the physical structure of key areas of our brains. These effects are responsible for both the reported and observed neurological, cognitive and emotional changes in those who meditate and do yoga.
Using MRI, scientists have identified that yoga and meditation influence the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain responsible for working memory and executive decision making. As we age, this is one part of the brain which has been shown to get smaller, therefore affecting our memory and ability to make decisions. Is it possible then, that yoga and meditation can reverse or slow down the aging process of our brain? Other key areas of the brain shown to be affected are those associated with learning and memory (hippocampus), stress (amygdala), empathy and compassion (temporo-parietal junction), and attention and self-awareness (insula).
Think your brain could use an extra boost? Come to yoga and reshape both your body and your brain!
"The term neuroplasticity is used to describe the brain changes that occur in response to experience."1
Neuroscientist Sara Lazar's amazing brain scans show meditation can actually change the size of key regions of our brain, improving our memory and making us more empathetic, compassionate, and resilient under stress.
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