Yoga poses for Menopause

There are many asanas and pranayamas which will benefit menopausal women, here is a selection known to help.

Yoga teachers might want to include a selection of these poses and pranayamas in their classes or, for a personal pratice, select at least four postures
and a breathing practice to incorporate in your daily routine.

Viparita Karani (Legs up the Wall)
  • well known restorative pose for women. This pose helps to quieten the mind and soothe the nervous system
Argha Sarvangasana (Half Shoulderstand), Sirsasana (Supported Headstand), Halasana (Plough Pose)
  • these can balance the hormones and bring blood flow to the brain cells
Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclining Bound Angle Pose) and Supta Virasana (Reclining Hero Pose)
  • recommended restorative poses
  • remember to use lots of props such as blankets and bolsters
Janu Sirsasana (Head-to-Knee Forward Bend), Pashimottanasana (Seated Forward Bend), Balasana (Child’s Pose)
  • are all calming, ease anxiety and restorative
Trikonasana (Triangle Pose)
  • is great for helping to boost bone density and strength
Pelvic floor or Kegel contractions
  • help prevent incontinence and prolapse problems

Eyes Wide Open

It was a normal, general hatha yoga class. One held every Monday morning at the exquisitely beautiful Mollymook Beach on the NSW South Coast. The major distraction of the class, other than the golden sandy beach and clear blue sky, being pods of playful dolphins coming to surf the waves and demonstrate their acrobatic prowess.

As a senior lecturer with the International Yoga Teachers Association (IYTA), I have always reminded students of the importance of keeping their eyes open when teaching. I personally follow my students closely: to see if they are understanding what I am saying, to see if they are placing their body into a non harmful place and to check the look on their faces – puzzled, struggling, strained, in pain or relaxed. I know that sometimes if I am exhausted I would like to close my eyes and speak from that space of inner bliss. However, in my opinion, this is the right of my students, not me.

Safety and ahimsa (harmlessness) is always my highest concern, for my students and also for me, as a teacher. With Australia now topping the USA as one of the most litigious countries in the world, I like to be confident regarding what I teach, how I teach, and how I care for my students. My classes at Mollymook were usually quite large and attracted a wide variety of people. Regular students included Sydney and Canberra retirees, pregnant girls (my specialty), new mums and several people suffering from cancer.

Nancy was one of my regular students. Other than gardening, yoga was Nancy’s weekly, not-to-miss activity. An older student, Nancy had some previous problems with shortness of breath and also hearing. For this reason she always sat at the front of the room, so she could keep an eye on me, but more importantly so I could keep an eye on her. On this day, I noticed Nancy seemed tired and was short of breath. She mentioned she’d had a big weekend gardening but stressed that she would prefer to be at yoga rather than stay at home. I took particular note to watch her throughout the class to remind her to rest. We went through a fairly gentle Dru class, with suggested modifications for those less flexible or with particular conditions requiring assistance.

The class progressed as usual. The dolphins entertained everyone, proving what an attraction they are not only for the tourists but also for the locals and, in particular, my yoga students. Then came time for relaxation, the part of the class that everyone waits for. Students were guided to relax in Shavasana and I proceeded to lead them through body awareness and relaxation. I always leave a space of stillness and quiet at this point, but make sure that I myself remain alert and watchful while the students relax.

I could see immediately that this was serious and suspected a heart attack, but didn’t jump to conclusions.

It was at this moment that I noticed Nancy in some sort of discomfort. She attempted to sit up and grasp at her throat and clothing. When I approached her she said her clothes were constricting her breath and she was hot. I asked her what else was happening and she explained tightness in her chest, weakness and a painful sensation down her left arm side of her body. I could see immediately that this was serious and suspected a heart attack, but didn’t jump to conclusions.

While attending to Nancy, I kept speaking in a calm voice to the class, who were continuing in deep relaxation. I then approached a student who I knew had nursing experience and asked her to help Nancy – and mentioned my suspicions. I left Nancy in capable hands while I went out of the room to get help. Luckily the room I hired was in a Surf Life Saving Club and a couple of off- duty life guards were in the gym, so I asked for their help and at the same time rang an ambulance and Nancy’s daughter.

When I walked back into the room, Nancy was having difficulty breathing but was being attended to, so I calmly spoke to the class (who were still in deep relaxation), guiding them back to the present. I informed them that a member of the class was not feeling well and asked that as they came out of their relaxation, could they calmly and quietly gather their belongings and leave the room. By this stage the ambulance was at the door. The paramedics had administered oxygen to Nancy and were preparing to take her to hospital. Nancy asked if I could go with her. Her daughter had arrived, so she and I accompanied Nancy, all the while keeping a calm disposition and positive attitude.

Nancy was taken to the local hospital where they confirmed she had suffered a heart attack and immediately moved her to a larger regional hospital. There they administered a drug – to which she suffered an anaphylactic reaction. She was then flown to Royal Prince Alfred in Sydney to have an emergency operation to fit a stent.

Fortunately Nancy made a full recovery. She returned to yoga once she was well enough and credited the fact that she had attended her regular yoga class instead of staying at home, with saving her life.

Here are the lessons I learnt from that experience and would like to share with other yoga teachers:

  • Keep your eyes open at all times when teaching – particularly during meditation and relaxation. It is during relaxation that sometimes the body can go into spasm or react emotionally and physically to a past activity or trauma.
  • Keep your first aid certificate up to date and know how to recognise the signs for stroke and heart attack.
  • Know the background of your students. I knew who in the class had nursing experience. (I also had a student who is a doctor but she was not present on that particular day).
  • Ensure that students needing extra care sit at the front of the class so you can keep an eye on them. Ask other students to move if necessary.
  • Keep a register of nearest of kin – luckily my contacts were in my phone.
  • Don’t panic. All of the students in that class had no idea what was going on until they came out of their guided relaxation. They all calmly and quietly left the room as instructed. This ensured the environment for Nancy was calm and quiet and further aided in her ability to cope with the situation.
  • Don’t mess around – act immediately.

The dolphins play on and thankfully Nancy and her family are still watching them.

Hopefully you are watching your students.

Fermenting for health and longevity

Before the advent of refrigeration, culturing foods was a useful preservation method and many believed that these foods promoted health and longevity. These foods are enjoying a resurgence in the modern era as the importance of probiotics is becoming more widely understood. There are many methods of ensuring you get your daily dose of beneficial bacteria. Here are the foods and drinks I have tried in my own journey.


A very popular drink, “mushroom tea” is having a huge resurgence and is even being made in commercial quantities. I even saw some at the supermarket. It is brewed from black tea and sugar using a starter called SCOBY. This name is an acronym meaning Symbiotic Colony Of Bacteria and Yeasts. Obviously, as it is made from black tea, it contains caffeine, so it may not be the best choice for small children. It is also potentially mildly alcoholic, between 0.5% and 3% alcohol, although the alcohol content varies depending on the fermentation method. It may not be the best choice for those with yeast allergies. It is possible to grow your own SCOBY from commercial kombucha or someone might give you one as they multiply readily under the right conditions.


A type of kombucha made with a Jun SCOBY, Jun is made from green tea and honey rather than the usual black tea and sugar. You are less likely to find this as a commercial product. You would need to find a SCOBY and brew it yourself. Jun SCOBYs also multiply readily, so you may find one if you ask around.


Kefir starter is similar to SCOBY but it tends to have more bacteria and less yeast. It is known as Turkish Yogurt and is usually used with dairy milk. I find it much easier to digest than regular milk and it is reputed to ‘enliven’ pasteurised milk. It makes a type of runny yogurt which is pleasantly tart. The kefir ‘grains’ look like little cauliflower heads and they will also multiply readily like the SCOBY for Kombucha and Jun, but these are polysaccharides and they are less yeasty. Kefir can also be made with non-dairy milks such as coconut milk, but the grains will not multiply as readily. Kefir is also produced commercially, and you can start some as you would yogurt by keeping some and using it to inoculate the milk. You can also purchase freeze-dried kefir grains. I make homemade sour cream and labne with my kefir grains.

Water Kefir

A fizzy drink made from sugar and water, this is made using water kefir grains which are similar but different from the milk kefir. Suitable for people who wish to avoid dairy milk, they provide some of the probiotic count of the dairy kefir, but not as many strains will be produced. The grains look like little jewels rather than cauliflowers. It’s a cheap drink to make and kids like it. It’s unlikely to be alcoholic unless you do a second fermentation with fruit. It is possible to brew a type of beer with water kefir grains and fruit juice. (I have done this accidentally and made a kind of hard cider… hic!)

Fermented Vegetables

In the past, many foods have been fermented, including meat and fish. The sushi of yesteryear was originally made with fermented fish, and we are all familiar with the Asian fermented sauces made from fish or soybeans. The vegetable ferments are having a comeback at the moment due to their high probiotic count. Sauerkraut is reputed to be one of the best. It is, at its most basic, pickled cabbage. Many other vegetables can be treated the same way, and popular additions include carrots, apples, kale and seaweed along with various flavourings, herbs and spices. You can be as creative as you like.

There are two main methods of culturing vegetables. The slow method just relies on salt and it can take up to two months to mature in cold weather. The fast method involves the addition of culture and takes just days to mature. You can purchase cultures for this, keep some juice from your last batch or use kefir whey. My family hates sauerkraut with a passion, so I make kimchi, which is a Korean version of sauerkraut, using Chinese cabbage or wombok. I am waiting for wombok to come into season again so that I can make a big batch in my fermenting crock.

Five Steps to experiencing Heartfulness Meditation

What is Heartfulness?

Heartfulness is a simple, modern, methodical approach to meditation. Rather than homing in on your breath or repeating a mantra, you simply focus inward, on your heart, to cultivate inner strength and serenity.

Who can practise?

Heartfulness is a super-inclusive form of meditation that’s been around for over one hundred years, and practised across one hundred countries.

Rooted in the Raja Yoga tradition, Heartfulness can be done alone or in a group. The practice is offered freely to those who wish to practise it. The practice is secular, straightforward, and informal.

Five Steps to get started

  1. Set aside twenty minutes for your ‘heart time.’ If possible, always meditate at the same time, in the same place, to keep your practice consistent and create a calm space that you can return to each day.
  2. Sit comfortably with your hands and legs drawn in close. Just focus on feeling peaceful and relaxed. Let your arms rest and land wherever is most comfortable.
  3. Take a moment to tune into your heart. Gently close your eyes and imagine that the Source of Light that is already present is illuminating and expanding to capture your attention. As you focus on the subtle idea of lightness in your heart, you will begin to feel a vibration and energy descending into you.
  4. As your mind wanders, gently return to this focus of light in the heart. Thoughts that arise will naturally fall away and not trouble you after some time of practice.
  5. Upon completion of your meditation, take a few moments to reflect on the practice. As you move through your day you will find yourself connecting to your heart space.

How to expand your practice

If you’re seeking some community-based relaxation, the Heartfulness Institute offers many free classes and workshops across the world. Alternatively, if you’re more of a homebody, the Institute provides plenty of online resources like self-guided videos, free of charge.

Can I include Heartfulness Relaxation and Meditation as part of my yoga Class?

Yes, Heartfulness can be included along with your other yoga practices, and can be a wonderful way to finish your class.

How to practice AUM – Healing vibrational sound

First set the optimal environment
  • Be comfortable;
  • Check your posture – soften chin, tongue gently resting on the base of the mouth, lips softly apart.

This is a vibrational healing practice (Mantra) leading you away from the chattering mind.


A: Begin with the inhale. Focus awareness on vibrations of sound resonating in the lower body: feet, legs, knees, thighs. Exhale (Arrr) sending vibrational sound to resonate in these areas (5 times).

U: Begin with the inhale, become aware of vibrations of sounds as they move further up the front body, chest, arms, shoulders, torso, back, spine, lower abdominals, stomach, chest heart, and back to the top of the spine. Become aware of any sensations or pain, exhaling the sound through the upper body, (5 times). Exhale (oooo) into these areas.

M: on chanting, become aware of vibrations of sounds as they move through the throat, jaw, tongue, head and neck awareness, exhale breath and vibrational sound (5 times). Exhale (mmm) into these areas.

AUM: Inhale, chant the whole word five times as you exhale into your entire body.

Rest in the stillness.


How to practice self-reflection safely – counselling for grief

Counselling for grief – how to practice self-reflection safely

  • Safety requires that you must be present within yourself and your physical environment
  • Turn off your phone
  • Have silence
  • Sit
  • As a practice invite in a loving guiding energy
  • Breathe
  • Drink water and stay hydrated
  • Develop an attentive methodical approach and just be
  • Sit back in your chair, and ground through your feet and sit bones
  • Let your spine lengthen
  • Take a swallow, lick your lips and rest your tongue on the floor of your mouth, creating a conscious small space between the teeth of the upper and lower jaw
  • Invite yourself to relax
  • Follow your breath
  • Breathe in and out and soften your diaphragm
  • Be aware. Be present. Be grounded.
  • Simply allow your emotions to play themselves out for you, projected onto your internal space like a movie on a screen.
  • Watch. Witness. Evaluate anew.
  • Plan, create strategy, let go.

Begin anew.

Is the rise of yoga bringing a fall in standards?

Making up the crowd, there was a rainbow of brightly coloured leggings, a stunning array of intricate tattoos and even the odd lycra onesie on show. Welcome to the yoga-inspired festival Wanderlust, where obviously drab T.shirts and dodgy leotards are a thing of the past.

It was an awesome sight as more than 2,000 Yogis all struck variations of Down Dog in a MASSIVE yoga class on iconic Bondi Beach.

Yoga is now officially cool and phenomenally popular as more and more people discover the far-reaching effects of this ancient practice and how it can help us all in our fast-paced modern world.

It’s inspiring to see how far yoga has come since I took up the practice thirty years ago and since I became a teacher on the IYTA Diploma of Yoga Teaching in 2000-2001.

According to an article published in the Dru Yoga newsletter, there are 36.7 million yoga practitioners in the US today – and yoga’s popularity has grown by a whopping fifty per cent in the last four years.

And that trend is reflected here in Australia, where more people practice yoga than play Aussie Rules Football!

I’m continually pondering the rise and rise of yoga – as the IYTA prepares to celebrate its fiftieth anniversary next year.

Generally the burgeoning of yoga is a very positive trend, but it is important that as we move forward we retain an inherent respect for capital-Y Yoga and all that it stands for.

Yoga isn’t a gimmick

It isn’t all about the physical body – it is so much more than being able to do an Iron Cross Headstand or wear the latest lycra. When you scratch beneath the surface you learn that it is so much bigger than you could ever anticipate. You could study yoga your entire life and still not fully understand the depth of the teachings and philosophy.

But that’s okay, because yoga is not about being able to recite all of Patanjali’s Sutras or squeeze yourself into a figure-hugging yoga onesie. It is about being in balance – with all the layers of your being. Being in flow with nature, the world and being the best person you possibly can be.

So that is why I was so shocked when I was helping out at the IYTA stand, and one girl told me she couldn’t be a yoga teacher, because she couldn’t hold a handstand for ten minutes.

I thought I must have misunderstood. But apparently not. She told me that a yoga school she’d contacted had dismissed her application because she couldn’t do a handstand for ten minutes.

Now I’m not sure if that was definitely what she was told, but it is what she believed to be the case. And she was genuinely upset. That is very sad and worrying, because it simply isn’t true.

If any of your students are considering becoming a yoga teacher, then they really don’t need to worry if they can’t touch their toes. It doesn’t matter if they’re a bit shaky in balances – but it does matter if they’re told what asanas they should or shouldn’t be able to do!

Yoga is non-judgmental – whatever your physical ability, because the ultimate goal of yoga isn’t to have abs of steel or a perfectly toned torso. As Patanjali wrote: Yoga is the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind.

The meaning of yoga can be debated for many hours, but I think one of the best ways to interpret it is from a passage in the ancient text, the Bhagavad Gita: Yoga is the journey of the self, through the self, to the self.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m sure none of the ancient texts or teachings state that it is about holding a handstand for a set period of time. That’s one of the many reasons why I am so pleased I studied with the IYTA. It’s an amazing diploma course delivered by lecturers and yogis with years of experience and wisdom. It’s non-profit and supports all lineages of yoga – which to me is the true embodiment of what yoga is truly about.

This Thing Called Yoga

Yoga downward dog on red mat

We regularly start a new year with commitment and determination to resolve conflicts in our lives – to improve ourselves.

People often try yoga at this time. Others have trouble making this commitment. As a yoga teacher, people regularly say to me “Oh, you are a yoga teacher; I should try yoga.” My response is always “Great.” And then they reply “Yes, I want to learn but I am too busy, I just can’t fit it in”. I am sure, as yogis, many of you have also had this conversation or something like it. But what is this thing they call “yoga”?

So many “yoga” variants have recently been created that, by the time I list them here, there will probably be new morphs appearing. Yoga is almost like a virus out of control. Yoga variants, however, are not unique to the twenty first century. They were being created in the West as soon as it was introduced here. People designed aqua yoga for people with limited mobility and aerial yoga for those who wanted more, to name just a couple.

Then and now, most of the yoga styles have been based primarily on the Hatha Yoga principle that the practice of asana awakens the physical body which in turn can awaken the energetic, mental and etheric bodies. We use physiological aspects of the physical body in conjunction with breath awareness to link into these other layers. But there is more.

In addition to practicing asana with breath awareness, Hatha Yoga employs mudras, bandhas, and mantras, techniques for withdrawing from external stimulation, meditation and relaxation. These are just as important as the practice of asana. How many people who attend yoga classes today have experienced the power of these other techniques? How many have experienced the power of the breath? I suggest not many. This is where I believe a grave digression
has taken place.

We see photos of people in so called “yoga poses” which are impossible to achieve without real risk of injury. Where is the yogic yama of ahimsa- ‘no harm’ – the back bone of yoga? We hear yoga advertised as the greatest growth ‘sport’. Perhaps they are describing the yoga styles that don’t bring breath awareness into their practice – where yoga has become merely physical exercise? We read that there are national and international yoga competitions – there is even an international yoga sports federation. What happened to the guiding light that yoga is not a competition? Today it seems that, in many yoga styles the external, physical body has taken priority over the internal physiological, aspects of our selves. This makes the practice of yoga ego- driven, which is I think the antithesis of yoga, whereby we seek to let go of the ego.

I may sound frustrated but I am not. I am merely disappointed and saddened because the practice of yoga speaks for itself. It doesn’t need any gimmicks.

I was acutely reminded of this when I had the privilege of working with a young adult with secondary bowel cancer. She had been recommended by a friend of hers who attends my yoga classes. Her friend knew I had personal experience with cancer, having myself been treated for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma two years previously. I had used my own yoga practices of breath awareness, visualisation, meditation and relaxation to help me though that difficult journey.

At this client’s first one-on-one session she said she had wanted to try yoga before her diagnosis but did not know whether she could do it because of
what she saw in the media – because of the way it was portrayed. How many people are discouraged from trying yoga because of this? I told her everyone can do yoga and benefit from it, and so she became my yoga student.

The practices we did together were simple and gentle, and at the end of each session she reported a sense of increased vitality, calmness and peace. She committed to regular practice and found it beneficial, particularly when things got tough. Even though her physical body was quickly deteriorating she continued to come and to practice.

While I was away at my son’s wedding she peacefully passed away at home with her family. Although I had only known her for four months of her brief life, I felt very privileged to have met her and shared my love and knowledge of yoga which she embraced with enthusiasm and determination to improve her life. She died on my birth date – a poignant reminder of the cycle of life. She was a true yogi.

I think this true story is a prudent reminder of the goal of yoga. It is not the attainment of a better physique, nor a more flexible or agile body, nor the ability to hold convoluted poses for longer than anyone else. These may be consequences of some practices, but they are not its essence. The goal of yoga is to attain peace within yourself while living with suffering, and hopefully with practice and determination rise above it.

Top 10 tips – How to choose a yoga teacher training course

Yoga dolphin pose on mats

10 things to consider before selecting yoga teacher training

Mary-Louise Parkinson, former President of the International Yoga Teachers Association (IYTA, est. 1967) encourages those who are seeking yoga teacher training to resist the grasping mind and desire for quick-fix solutions. Instead yoga students are encouraged to research and look beyond the glossy websites and slick marketing, to find the true essence of the organisation providing training and its commitment to the support of yoga as an honoured career and lifelong journey.

Here’s her 10-point check-list before undertaking any yoga teacher training:

  1. Is it a quick-fix, condensed course or a well-balanced course run over time? Does it comply with the minimum 200 or 350 hours, preferably spread over a 12-month period, not several weeks?
  2. Is the course based on sound educational structure with a combination of journaling, regular assessments, homebased research, online material and written and practical examinations?
  3. Does the curriculum cover Patanjali’s eight limbs of yoga as a solid, basic foundation level of yoga teaching?
  4. Does the school have a faculty of experienced, qualified lecturers knowledgeable in their specific subject? Or is it one or two people delivering the whole course? (Which would be a little like attending university and one lecturer delivers all of the lectures.)
  5. How long has the school been around and does it have the ability to continue to provide education and support into the future (ie, will it fold when the founder or lead teacher leaves)?
  6. Does the school follow the ethics and values of yoga? Is it non-profit? Does it give to charity/ provide scholarships? Is it ego/money driven?
  7. Is the teacher training locking you into someone’s “brand” or style of yoga?
  8. How is the course assessed and how are you assessed in order to ensure you can actually teach a class in a safe, professional manner?
  9. What is the career path offered by the school, ie, do they offer post-graduate training and level 2 training, continuing professional development, mentorship, peer programs and a career perhaps as a lecturer?
  10. What are the pre-qualifications of the student? Are you required to have a minimum of three years experience as a dedicated student? Do you need to have a sponsoring teacher to recommend you as a suitable candidate to teach yoga? Or can anyone do the training?

Once you’ve gone through the checklist, Mary-Louise suggests listening to your heart. Take your time, practise tapas (discipline) and patience. Do your utmost to respect the science and teachings of yoga. Because the path has already begun.

Yoga for Menopause – a personal story

A yearning for space and solitude was what yoga teacher and IYTA president first experienced.

“I have a period for six weeks and then nothing. But the overriding feeling for me was the desire to hide in a cave!”

ML had to balance a huge emotional pull to meditate in solitude with the practical need to fulfil her mothering and parenting duties. At the time ML entered
peri-menopause, she had a 12-year-old daughter and six-year-old son.

ML was keen to deal with this phase of life using yoga and other alternative practices in place of HRT. so she would set her alarm for 5.30am every day
and take a walk in nature before spending an hour practising yoga and meditation. She was particularly drawn to flowing, gentle, heart-base yoga sequences.

ML also found regular kahuna (Hawaiian massage) helped, as well as connection with other women.

Thankfully for ML her menopause lasted just 12 months – and she now says she feels better and more liberated than ever.

“We want to help women have an empowering transition and not to see this time as a curse. And to those who have been through it, it can be viewed with
a sense of accomplishment and pride – a time when you reclaimed you true self.

Yoga For The Health Of The Mind

Yoga has been found to be better than memory games for reducing pre-Alzheimer’s cognitive impairment

A team of neuroscientists from the University of Adelaide and the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) found that a three-month course of yoga and
meditation practice helped minimise the cognitive and emotional problems that often precede Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. Not only
that, it was even more effective than the memory enhancement exercises that have been considered the gold standard for managing mild cognitive impairment.

People with mild cognitive impairment are two-and-ahalf times more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. The study, which
appears May 10 in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, is the first to compare outcomes from yoga and meditation with those from memory training, which
incorporates activities ranging from crossword puzzles to commercially available computer programs.

“Historically and anecdotally, yoga has been thought to be beneficial in aging well, but this is the scientific demonstration of that benefit,” said Harris
Eyre, the study’s lead author, a doctoral candidate at Australia’s University of Adelaide and a former Fulbright scholar at UCLA’s Semel Institute
for Neuroscience and Human Behavior. “We’re converting historical wisdom into the high level of evidence required for doctors to recommend therapy
to their patients.”

Lavretsky and Eyre studied participants who had reported issues with their memory, such as tendencies to forget names, faces or appointments or to misplace
things. Subjects underwent memory tests and brain scans at the beginning and end of the study. Eleven participants received one hour a week of memory
enhancement training and spent twenty minutes a day performing memory exercises — verbal and visual association and other practical strategies
for improving memory, based on research-backed techniques. The other 14 participants took a one-hour class once a week in Kundalini yoga and practised
Kirtan Kriya meditation at home for twenty minutes each day.

After twelve weeks, the researchers saw similar improvements among participants in both groups in verbal memory skills, which come into play for remembering
names and lists of words. But those who had practised yoga and meditation had better improvements than the other subjects in visual– spatial memory
skills, which come into play for recalling locations and navigating while walking or driving. The yoga–meditation group also had better results in
terms of reducing depression and anxiety and improving coping skills and resilience to stress. That’s important because coming to terms with cognitive
impairment can be emotionally difficult. “When you have memory loss, you can get quite anxious about that and it can lead to depression,” said Lavretsky.

The researchers report that the participants’ outward improvements in memory corresponded with perceptible changes in their brain activity. Using functional
magnetic resonance imaging, they showed that subjects in both groups had changes in their brain connectivity, but the changes among the yoga group
were statistically significant, whereas the changes in the memory group were not. The researchers attribute the positive “brain fitness” effects of
mindful exercise to several factors, including its abilities to reduce stress and inflammation, improve mood and resilience, and enhance production
of brain-derived neurotrophic growth factor, a protein the stimulates connections between neurons and kick-start telomerase activity, a process that
replaces lost or damaged genetic material.

The study was funded by the Alzheimer’s Research and Prevention Foundation. Source: UCLA Newsroom