What neuroscience is teaching us about yoga, and what yoga is teaching us about neuroscience.
From brain scans to genetics, scientists are now using the latest research tools to understand the power of yoga and meditation. Studies in healthy volunteers show that yoga/meditation can induce long lasting changes in brain structure and function — a phenomenon known as experience dependent neuroplasticity. Studies of patients with neuropsychiatric disorders have shown the potential of yoga to heal a wide variety of symptoms and enhance resilience. Regular meditation and yoga may also slow age-related changes in the brain and boost cognitive reserve. Studies of experienced yoga teachers are helping scientists better understand the brain’s role in self-referential awareness and advancing research into consciousness. Thus, as the union between yoga and neuroscience evolves and matures, brain research shed new light into yoga benefits us and yoga research may transform our conceptualization of the brain.
Murali Doraiswamy is a professor of psychiatry and medicine at Duke University Medical Center and a member of the Duke Institute for Brain Sciences. He is also a Senior Fellow at the Duke Center for the Study of Aging and Human Development. Murali directs a leading clinical trials unit focused on mental wellness and cognitive health. He has coauthored more than 250 scientific reports and a popular book, The Alzheimer’s Action Plan. Murali has been an advisor to leading government agencies, businesses and advocacy groups. He is a brain health advisor for Men’s Health magazine and serves on the panel of Health Experts for the Wall Street Journal.