Memory loss Photo by Karen Yeomans


About

Fear and stress cause us to forget. We make light of ‘brain fade’, ‘mommy moments’ and ‘senior moments', but long term, left unchecked, fear and stress can damage the brain, resulting in the loss of cognitive abilities.

Yoga, meditation and breathing exercises (pranayama) practiced regularly can reduce stress, calm the mind and help us to focus our mental resources on the task at hand. Attention and concentration can improve. We can process information more efficiently, and learn new information more effectively.

Clinical studies suggest yoga, meditation and pranayama (breathing exercises) can help to treat memory loss. They can improve memory; both spatial/visual memory (yoga) and verbal fluency (meditation). Yoga has also been associated with reduced anxiety.

Also see Alzheimer’s.


What the clinical studies say

Yoga
  • Improves balance
  • Improves flexibility
  • Improves joint motion
  • Improves memory
  • Improves muscle strength
  • Improves spatial memory
  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Reduces anxiety
  • Reduces respiration rate
  • Strengthens cardiopulmonary fitness
Meditation
  • Improves cerebral blood flow
  • Improves memory
  • Improves verbal fluency
Mindfulness
  • Improves memory

The clinical studies

Effect of two yoga-based relaxation techniques on memory scores and state anxiety
Practice
  • Yoga
  • Meditation
  • Mindfulness
Abstract

Background:

A yoga practice involving cycles of yoga postures and supine rest (called cyclic meditation) was previously shown to improve performance in attention tasks more than relaxation in the corpse posture (shavasana). This was ascribed to reduced anxiety, though this was not assessed.

Methods:

In fifty-seven male volunteers (group average age ± S.D., 26.6 ± 4.5 years) the immediate effect of two yoga relaxation techniques was studied on memory and state anxiety. All participants were assessed before and after (i) Cyclic meditation (CM) practiced for 22:30 minutes on one day and (ii) an equal duration of Supine rest (SR) or the corpse posture (shavasana), on another day. Sections of the Wechsler memory scale (WMS) were used to assess; (i) attention and concentration (digit span forward and backward), and (ii) associate learning. State anxiety was assessed using Spielberger's State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI).

Results:

There was a significant improvement in the scores of all sections of the WMS studied after both CM and SR, but, the magnitude of change was more after CM compared to after SR. The state anxiety scores decreased after both CM and SR, with a greater magnitude of decrease after CM. There was no correlation between percentage change in memory scores and state anxiety for either session.

Conclusion:

A cyclical combination of yoga postures and supine rest in CM improved memory scores immediately after the practice and decreased state anxiety more than rest in a classical yoga relaxation posture (shavasana).#
Citations

45
Authors

Pailoor Subramanya | Shirley Telles
Published

2009
Journal

BioPsychoSocial Medicine
Volume / Issue

3:8
Author's primary institution

Indian Council of Medical Research Center for Advanced Research in Yoga and Neurophysiology, SVYASA, Bangalore, India
Yoga breathing through a particular nostril increases spatial memory scores without lateralized effects
Practice
  • Yoga
  • Meditation
  • Mindfulness
Abstract

Uninostril breathing facilitates the performance on spatial and verbal cognitive tasks, said to be right and left brain functions, respectively. Since hemi-spheric memory functions are also known to be lateralized, the present study assessed the effects of uninostrol breathing on the performance in verbal and spatial memory tests.

School children (N = 108 whose age ranged from 10 to 17 years) were randomly assigned to four groups. Each group practiced a specific yoga breathing technique. These techniques were practiced for 10 days. Verbal and spatial memory was assessed initially after 10 days. An age-matched control group of 27 were similarly assessed.

All 4 trained groups showed a significant increase in spatial test scores at retests, but the control group showed no change. Average increase in spatial memory scores for the trained groups was 84%.

It appears yoga breathing increases spatial rather than verbal scores, without a lateralized effect.
Citations

102
Authors

K. V Naveen | R. Nagarathna | H. R. Nagendra | S Telles
Published

1997
Journal

Psychological Reports
Volume / Issue

81:2
Author's primary institution

Vivekananda Kendra Yoga Research Foundation, Bangalore, India
Meditation Effects on Cognitive Function and Cerebral Blood Flow In Subjects with Memory Loss: A Preliminary Study
Practice
  • Yoga
  • Meditation
  • Mindfulness
Abstract

This preliminary study determined if subjects with memory loss problems demonstrate changes in memory and cerebral blood flow (CBF) after a simple 8-week meditation program.

Fourteen subjects with memory problems had an IV inserted and were injected with 250MBq of Tc-99m ECD while listening to a neutral stimulus CD. They then underwent a pre-program baseline SPECT scan. Then subjects were guided through their first meditation session with a CD, during which they received an injection of 925MBq ECD, and underwent a pre-program meditation scan. Subjects completed an 8-week meditation program and underwent the same scanning protocol resulting in a post-program baseline and meditation scan. A region of interest (ROI) template obtained counts in each ROI normalized to whole brain to provide a CBF ratio. Baseline and meditation scans and neuropsychological testing were compared before and after the program.

The meditation program resulted in significant increases (p< 0.05) in baseline CBF ratios in the prefrontal, superior frontal, and superior parietal cortices. Scores on neuropsychological tests of verbal fluency, Trails B, and logical memory showed improvements after training.

This preliminary study evaluated whether an 8-week meditation program resulted in improvements in neuropsychological function and differences in CBF in subjects with memory loss. While the findings are encouraging, there are a number of limitations that can be addressed in future studies with more participants and more detailed analyses.
Citations

40
Authors

Andrew B. Newberg | Nancy Wintering | Dharam S. Khalsa | Hannah Roggenkamp | Mark R. Waldman
Published

2010
Journal

Journal of Alzheimer's Disease
Volume / Issue

20:2
Author's primary institution

Center for Spirituality and the Mind, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA, USA
Using silver yoga exercises to promote physical and mental health of elders with dementia in long-term care facilities
Practice
  • Yoga
  • Meditation
  • Mindfulness
Abstract

Background:

This study aimed to test the effects of yoga exercises on the physical and mental health of elderly people with dementia living in long-term care facilities.

Methods:

A quasi-experimental, pretest–post-test design was used. A convenience sample of 68 residents in long-term care facilities in southern Taiwan, aged 60 years and above with mild to moderate dementia, was selected. An experimental group of 33 elders participated in a 12-week yoga training program of three 55-minute sessions a week; a control group of 35 elders maintained their usual daily activities. Data were collected before and after completing the 12-week study. Measurements included body composition, cardiopulmonary functions, body flexibility, muscle strength and endurance, balance, joints motion, depression, and problem behaviors.

Results:

The yoga-trained participants had better physical and mental health than those who did not participate, including lowered blood pressure, reduced respiration rate, strengthened cardiopulmonary fitness, enhanced body flexibility, improved muscle strength and endurance, improved balance, and increased joints motion (all p values < 0.05). In addition, the depression state (p < 0.001) and problem behaviors (p < 0.001) of these demented elders were significantly reduced.

Conclusion:

Yoga exercise has positive benefits for both the physical and mental health of elders with dementia living in long-term care facilities. It is recommended that yoga be included as one of the routine activities in these long-term care facilities
Citations

20
Authors

Jue-Ting Fan | Kuei-Min Chen
Published

2011
Journal

International Psychogeriatrics
Volume / Issue

23:08
Author's primary institution

Department of Nursing, Fooyin University, Kaohsiung, Taiwan

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