Brain-boosting exercise that meets you where you are

As the blog regularly describes, yoga’s practices are not confined to the physical work of postures (asana)—in fact, asana is just the beginning of the yoga journey. Using a variety of methods, yoga and yoga therapy address the whole human being, the inextricably interconnected mind, body, and spirit.

Complicated postures aren’t the point of the practice, but the interconnected nature of our systems means that moving our bodies—according to our own capacity—brings benefits beyond those to the body itself: Western research methods now show that purposeful physical activity improves the health of both physical and mental functioning. As this article notes, “exercise seems to be as much a cognitive activity as a physical one,” offering a healthy challenge for the brain as well as for muscles and other physical structures.

The movement need not be vigorous (or even very visible) to be effective: For example, walking, which can be done mindfully or even as a formal meditation, has health benefits for diabetes. And one group of researchers has studied a program of gentle yogic movement for chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) patients who hadn’t responded to conventional therapies as hoped; those researchers have also successfully worked with CFS patients so ill they weren’t able to leave their hospital beds. In another example, yoga therapy student interns at Maryland University of Integrative Health work with patients bedside in a teaching hospital using visualization, gentle breathwork, and other practices that can be readily accessed regardless of the body’s physical condition.

Although physical exercise is beneficial for many conditions, really all that’s required to practice yoga is a willing spirit.

Photo from Yoga as Lifestyle Medicine Conference, courtesy of