Yoga Reduces Stress and Improves Short-Term Memory, According to Research

Yoga is one of the most therapeutic forms of exercise and one of the most effective ways to reduce stress if you’re seeking for ways to beat anxiety and stress while maintaining mental clarity after (or throughout) hectic workdays. It does this by combining movement, breathing techniques, and mindfulness.

Both recent and historical research supports yoga’s beneficial effects on mental health and stress reduction. There’s more evidence now that yoga helps reduce stress and improve brain function, according to a 2023 study published in the Journal of Behavioral Medicine. Several times a week at home, professionals who were experiencing stress were able to lessen their symptoms and even enhance their short-term memory by engaging in moderate-intensity yoga.

Researchers from the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign assessed 86 full-time working individuals who took part in an eight-week, moderately intense, remote yoga program. All of the participants in the experiment reported having stress symptoms. The trial was small but informative.

The study abstract concludes that “[r]emote moderate-intensity yoga practice proved safe, enjoyable, and may reduce stress and improve cognitive functioning.” In the end, the participants who practiced medium-intensity yoga for 50 minutes, three times per week, for eight weeks (at home), “had significantly lower stress and anxiety, and higher accuracy on working memory tasks,” compared to a control group.

“There’s some literature that has directly compared yoga to aerobic exercise, and we’ve known for quite a long time that aerobic exercise has benefits for the brain,” the speaker stated. “Our research investigates complex movements—not just riding a bicycle or walking in a straight line, but multi-planar movements that require navigating one’s space a little differently and being conscious of movement, technique, and breathing.”

For those who are unfamiliar with yoga, it may seem daunting, but you don’t have to be an expert headstand performer to enjoy the well-being benefits of practicing yoga. The only equipment you’ll need is a yoga mat or other similarly supportive, grippy surface, as well as internet access for virtual sessions. You can complete this activity from the comfort of your own home, frequently for free. Beginning yoga practitioners can begin by locating free online yoga courses to understand the fundamentals; attempting a few simple, calming yoga stretches each day; and taking short, revitalizing breaks throughout the day.