During a recent (July 3) Yin class, Angie shared excerpts from this post on the Psychology Today website. Written by Marlynn H. Wei, a yogi who is also a psychiatrist, the piece is titled “Why Does Anyone Do Yoga, Anyway?” While it mentions the physical benefits of yoga, the post primarily summarizes recent neuroscience research on the mental benefits, including this information:
A new, May 2015 study published in the Frontiers in Human Neuroscience uses magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the brain to show that yoga protects the brain from the decline in gray matter brain volume as we age. People with more yoga experience had brain volumes on par with much younger people….This finding has also been true in brain imaging studies of people who meditate. In other words, yoga could protect your brain from shrinking as you get older.
Even more interesting, the protection of this gray matter brain volume is mostly in the left hemisphere, the side of your brain associated with positive emotions and experiences and parasympathetic nervous system activity—your “rest and digest” relaxation system. Emotions like joy and happiness have exclusively more activity in the left hemisphere of the brain on positive emission tomography (PET) brain scans.