No doubt, yoga is a wonder exercise—it tones muscles, tames monkey mind and even burns some calories. But there’s one area in which it can fall short: as a cardio workout. Only
aerobic exercise—and most yoga doesn't qualify—gave rise to increases in brain volume in regions related to memory and attention
, found a University of Illinois study that tracked older adults who followed various fitness training regimens. Aerobic activity is the best for raising levels of brain-derived neurotropic factor (BDNF), a protein that encourages neurons to grow.
Three one-hour sessions of aerobic exercise (jogging, speed-walking, bicycling) a week for six months, as prescribed in the study. Even a short, high-intensity aerobic exertion—like sprinting—can dramatically raise BDNF
, resulting in 20 percent faster learning in one study. For yogis who want an all-in-one workout, add pulse-raising Vinyasa Flow or Power Yoga to your practice and (this applies to everyone) a dose of meditation—also proven to help us focus and retain information