Yoga pants fan or not, you might want to reconsider adding some yoga poses to your schedule if you’re not on the mat yet. Recently older adults are the subjects of interest in a stream of studies about yoga’s brain boosting benefits. The news is uplifting.

It’s well known older adults are at greater risk for dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease. Lesser, but annoying concerns, like forgetting whether you locked the front door and where you put your cell phone, are attributed to our increasingly stressful modern lives.

Brain exposure to high levels of cortisol is a contributing factor to cognitive deficits as we age. It’s a cumulative effect. If you’ve lived with perceived high stress for long periods of time you’re more susceptible to cognitive decline or dementia.

yoga posesBy adding yoga to your weekly exercise arsenal, researchers believe you can decrease your perception of stress and offset the negative effects of cortisol. Ultimately, that means you can spare the brain deterioration that follows elevated cortisol levels. This in itself is good news, but this is like icing on the cake. For midlife women more susceptible to the negative effects of cortisol who struggle with weight management, reducing cortisol can help a cascade of other concerns.

Benefits of Yoga

Add yoga’s brain benefits to the list of physical benefits yoga provides including, but not limited to, flexibility, stamina, and reducing blood pressure. Many yoga practitioners report having begun yoga for one reason and staying for that and more. Whether you find your way to the mat for memory enhancement or flexibility, you may find yourself hooked from the myriad of benefits.

Yoga and Alzheimer’s

Would you find an hour a week to practice yoga and meditate 20 minutes a day to prevent Alzheimer’s? A study at UCLA proved that it might be time well spent. Subjects who did Kundalini yoga for an hour just once a week along with daily meditation for 20 minutes minimized cognitive impairments that precede Alzheimer’s better than memory enhancement exercises.

If your time is limited you may want to turn off the Luminosity brain games and find a mat for yoga poses in order to reduce your risk of brain decline. Results are both fast and forever as long as you continue practicing. Most of the studies with significant results have been eight to twelve weeks. You could be more clear-headed in two months.

Yoga Poses and Recall

yoga posesDo you forget your children’s names? Do you catch yourself in the middle of telling a story asking if you’ve told it before? Have you forgotten important things both present and past? Take some fish oil, add blueberries to your breakfast and plan a date with your yoga mat.

The results in another small study showed that your memory recall could be just as good following a once weekly yoga class plus meditation, which seems to be an important component) as if you performed weekly memory enhancement training. So if you’re looking to keep your body and your brain nimble, yoga poses may be the prescription you need.

Yoga Poses are Unique

In case you’re wondering if another activity would do, the answer so far is, no. Even considering the most closely related activity, stretching, yoga emerges as the winner.

A study exploring the benefits of yoga compared subjects practicing yoga to subjects stretching for the same amount of time weekly for 8 weeks.

Subjects assigned to the yoga group improved in their cognitive function and decreased cortisol while the stretching group declined in cognitive function and increased in cortisol. Hands down (on a mat) yoga poses win that one.

The conclusion is yoga has an effect that other traditional exercise may not in terms of cognitive health.

Faster Thinking?

“Give me a minute, it’ll come to me.” 

yoga poses

Sound familiar? It’s there on the tip of your tongue. Except when it’s not.

Yet another study shows yoga causes improvements in attention and processing speed. Say you’re having trouble staying focused at work or finishing a book. You can’t remember what you read. You can condition your brain through yoga just like you would your body through weight training. Yoga that includes poses, or asanas, as well as movement, and meditation seems to offer the most brain benefits.

Is there a yoga for you?

If you’re new to yoga, look for a Hatha yoga class. That would include all the components of brain enhancing yoga used in the studies. You should be able to find a beginner or basics class or one that teaches the use of props. Many yoga classes are performed in chairs in case you need accommodations for your joints or other balance issues.

There are a wide variety of yoga DVDs and live streaming video programs available online in addition to your local yoga studios. If you’re tempted to practice at home due to intimidation or convenience, this yoga instructor and 34-year fitness professional encourages you to first have a session or two with an instructor who will help you modify moves for your needs.


About The Author

Debra Atkinson

Fitness expert, author and professional speaker Debra Atkinson, MS, CSCS is the host of The Flipping 50 Show podcast and Flipping 50 TV show as seen on With more than 30 years experience in the fitness industry, she is also America's Boomer Babe Fitness Expert. Her most recent book, You Still Got It, Girl! The After 50 Fitness Formula for Women, and her keynotes focus on how to win the war on energy and optimal weight at every age, while having a ball doing it. She will highly recommend a midlife crisis to stop settling and start living and laughing more. Visit her at