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Front Hum Neurosci. 2015 May 8;9:235. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2015.00235. eCollection 2015.

Neurophysiological and neurocognitive mechanisms underlying the effects of yoga-based practices: towards a comprehensive theoretical framework.

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Department of Family Medicine and Public Health, School of Medicine, University of California San Diego La Jolla, CA, USA ; VA San Diego Healthcare System La Jolla, CA, USA.
Center for Mind and Brain, University of California Davis Davis, CA, USA.
Department of Clinical Neuroscience, Karolinska Institutet Stockholm, Sweden ; Department of Psychiatry, University of California San Francisco San Francisco, CA, USA.


During recent decades numerous yoga-based practices (YBP) have emerged in the West, with their aims ranging from fitness gains to therapeutic benefits and spiritual development. Yoga is also beginning to spark growing interest within the scientific community, and yoga-based interventions have been associated with measureable changes in physiological parameters, perceived emotional states, and cognitive functioning. YBP typically involve a combination of postures or movement sequences, conscious regulation of the breath, and various techniques to improve attentional focus. However, so far little if any research has attempted to deconstruct the role of these different component parts in order to better understand their respective contribution to the effects of YBP. A clear operational definition of yoga-based therapeutic interventions for scientific purposes, as well as a comprehensive theoretical framework from which testable hypotheses can be formulated, is therefore needed. Here we propose such a framework, and outline the bottom-up neurophysiological and top-down neurocognitive mechanisms hypothesized to be at play in YBP.


allostatic load; attention; basal ganglia; bottom-up; breath; movement; top-down; yoga

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