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Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2012;2012:821307. doi: 10.1155/2012/821307. Epub 2012 Dec 5.

Yoga meditation practitioners exhibit greater gray matter volume and fewer reported cognitive failures: results of a preliminary voxel-based morphometric analysis.

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1
Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC 27708, USA ; Brain Imaging and Analysis Center, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC 27708, USA.

Abstract

Hatha yoga techniques, including physical postures (asanas), breathing exercises (pranayama), and meditation, involve the practice of mindfulness. In turn, yoga meditation practices may induce the state of mindfulness, which, when evoked recurrently through repeated practice, may accrue into trait or dispositional mindfulness. Putatively, these changes may be mediated by experience-dependent neuroplastic changes. Though prior studies have identified differences in gray matter volume (GMV) between long-term mindfulness practitioners and controls, no studies to date have reported on whether yoga meditation is associated with GMV differences. The present study investigated GMV differences between yoga meditation practitioners (YMP) and a matched control group (CG). The YMP group exhibited greater GM volume in frontal, limbic, temporal, occipital, and cerebellar regions; whereas the CG had no greater regional greater GMV. In addition, the YMP group reported significantly fewer cognitive failures on the Cognitive Failures Questionnaire (CFQ), the magnitude of which was positively correlated with GMV in numerous regions identified in the primary analysis. Lastly, GMV was positively correlated with the duration of yoga practice. Results from this preliminary study suggest that hatha yoga practice may be associated with the promotion of neuroplastic changes in executive brain systems, which may confer therapeutic benefits that accrue with repeated practice.

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