Can Yoga Improve Cognitive Function?

Yoga has exploded in popularity in recent decades. In the West, yoga is often associated with stress reduction and physical fitness. However, as people begin to live longer and the world’s elderly population grows, there has been significant interest in the relationship between yoga and cognitive function. Can yoga help to ward off cognitive decline? How does it affect cognition in general? Let’s take a look at what the research says.

yoga cognition

Cognitive benefits for seniors

According to a 2019 meta-analysis, yoga may improve seniors’ cognitive functioning, mood, and sleep quality. Researchers noted improvements in several cognitive domains among healthy seniors who had completed 6 months of regular yoga practice. Verbal memory, visual memory, attention, and processing speed improved among the participants. 


Senior participants in a 2013 study showed improvement in memory after 6 months of regular yoga practice. The researchers noted that immediate and delayed recall of verbal and visual memory improved. Memory is a primary concern for elderly individuals who are at risk of developing dementia.

Dementia prevention

Yoga provides cognitive stimulation, as well as physical activity. These two activities are known to help prevent cognitive decline in the elderly. So, we can determine that yoga is a healthy activity for aging brains. 

Cognitive benefits for all ages

Aside from the benefits of improved memory and the possible prevention of dementia, yoga can positively affect cognitive function for people of all ages. Among healthy adults, studies have seen improvements in attention, processing speed, and executive function.


In most yoga classes, you’ll find that there is some level of focus on breath control and mindfulness. The practice of training the mind to stay present and move the body in sync with the breath has been shown to improve attention and concentration skills. Improvements have been noted in different types of attention, including sustained attention and divided attention.

Executive function

Executive functions involve processes like planning, decision-making, and cognitive flexibility. Yoga practices that require mental effort, such as maintaining balance and coordination during challenging postures, can enhance executive functions. Additionally, the mind-body connection fostered by yoga allows individuals to cultivate self-awareness, emotional regulation, and impulse control, which may contribute to improved executive functions.

Stress relief

One aspect of yoga worth noting is the often-cited effect of stress relief. We often think of mental health and cognitive health as separate, but they are closely linked. Stress relief can have far-reaching benefits for our cognition. Elevated stress levels can lead to high levels of cortisol. Over time, this can damage the hippocampus area of the brain. The hippocampus plays a major role in memory, learning, and social cognition. Lowering stress levels lowers the hormone cortisol in our bodies, which can prevent damage to the hippocampus. Therefore, lowered stress levels can help seniors’ brains stay healthier for longer.

Lowered stress levels, as noted in the study, can also improve mood and sleep quality. These can have significant effects on our cognition as well! Getting enough sleep is vital for good cognitive functioning.


Research has certainly shown that yoga has the potential to provide cognitive benefits. However, it should be noted that these benefits can vary greatly between individuals. Our cognition depends on so many factors, including genetics, age, and conditions. And the level of dedication or interest we have in an activity can determine what we get out of that activity. Yoga isn’t necessarily a miracle cure for anything, but it doesn’t seem to hurt. Yoga can potentially provide cognitive benefits to individuals of all ages and can be particularly beneficial for seniors in helping to prevent cognitive decline.

Seniors can take a variety of approaches to help stimulate their cognition and possibly prevent dementia. HappyNeuron Pro combined with healthy brain habits like yoga, a healthy diet, and socializing just might help your brain feel healthier than when you were in your prime!

Aly Castle

Aly is HappyNeuron Pro’s Content Specialist. She is passionate about mental health and well-being and loves utilizing her design background to share important cognitive information clearly and understandably.

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