Practising yoga regularly can slow down ageing of the brain and help it stay young, claims a study. The study by the researchers of the Defence Institute of Physiology and Allied Sciences (DIPAS), said that yoga might help in prevention of age-related degeneration by changing cardiometabolic risk factors and brain-derived neurotrophic factors among men. A previous study showed that there was heightened brain activity when the person’s thoughts wandered freely on their own, during yoga.
DIPAS is a laboratory of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO). The research study, which was published in the American Ageing Association, focused not only on the brain but comparative studies were conducted on hypertension, blood pressure, heart rate, and stress. According to the researchers, the brain develops till the age of 20 to 30. After that, development of the brain halts and after 40 years, its slow degeneration starts.
As part of the study, done by Rameswar Pal, Som Nath Singh, Abhirup Chatterjee and Mantu Saha, 124 healthy and physically active men aged between 20 and 50 years were randomly selected and divided into three age groups — 20-29, 30-39, and 40-50 years.
Inclusion criterion were normal healthy and physically active males, absence of disease which could have contributed to obesity, hypertension, and neurological disorders, not in medication and no prior knowledge of yoga. Smokers, alcoholics, and tobacco eaters were excluded from the study. The respondents were made to practice yoga for one hour everyday for three months.
The blood pressure which was recorded at 122/69 in the age group of 20-29 before yoga reduced to 119/68 (systolic pressure is 119 and the diastolic pressure is 68) after doing yoga. Similarly, the blood pressure which was 134/84 among the respondents (40-50) came down to 124/79 after yoga.
Cortisol, which is a stress hormone released by the adrenal glands and helps body deal with stressful situations was 68.5% in the age group of 20-29 which declined to 47.4 after the exercise. The cortisol level which was 95 before yoga reduced to 72.7 after three months of yoga in the group 40-50 years. Further, dopamine and serotonine levels which effectively improve motivation, focus, mood and instil positivity were found to have improved in all the groups after yoga.
Those having low dopamine levels may experience feelings of depression, boredom, or apathy. They may lack the energy and motivation to carry out ordinary tasks, the researchers said. “Based on the results of the study, it may be concluded that the ageing process has an active role on degenerative changes in autonomic functions, and monoamines as well as levels of BDNF, which may revert back towards normal or near- normal levels through yogic practice in healthy active males,” the study said.