Researchers from UCLA Health have discovered that Kundalini yoga, a form of yoga focused on breathwork, meditation, and mental visualization, could be beneficial for older women with risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease who are experiencing memory decline.
The study was published online in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.
Led by psychiatrist Dr. Helen Lavretsky, the team of UCLA researchers used a special type of MRI to measure brain activity.
The study aimed to compare the effects of yoga with Memory Enhancement Training (MET), the established method of enhancing memory through verbal and visual association and practical strategies.
The study found that Kundalini yoga, which includes movement, meditation, mantra recitation, and mental visualization, enhanced connectivity in a brain area impacted by stress and linked with memory decline.
According to Lavretsky, Kundalini yoga appears to better address stress-related hippocampal connectivity, while MET may better target sensory-integration subregions of the hippocampus. Both techniques seem to support better memory reliability.
The study involved 22 participants with an average age of 61-65, all of whom reported memory function decline over the previous year and had at least one cardiovascular risk factor known to increase Alzheimer’s risk.
Practical Application and Future Research
The findings suggest that Kundalini yoga and Kirtan Kriya—a meditative form of yoga—could enhance respiratory, cardiovascular, and autonomic nervous system functions.
These forms of yoga engage multiple senses and include chanting components, making them suitable for older adults who may have physical limitations.
Both Kundalini yoga and MET showed improved connectivity in the hippocampus.
However, Kundalini yoga appeared to provide superior long-term neuroprotective benefits in terms of crucial hippocampal connections linked to episodic memory.
Despite promising results, the authors argue that future large-scale studies, including a placebo or control group, will be necessary to confirm the beneficial effects of both yoga and MET on hippocampal connectivity and memory.
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The study was published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.
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