Category Archives: Health

What’s in a song

From the NPR series, What’s in a song:

Group Sing-alongs help a friend

For the past several years, a group of friends has gathered every week in the living room of a suburban home in Logan, Utah, to sing long-forgotten songs. It’s a fun way to spend the evening, but it’s also therapy for a dear friend.

Until several years ago, Barre Toelken was a folklorist at Utah State University. He’d spent much of his life preserving sea shanties and other antique songs, but then he had a stroke and was forced to retire. verysmallBrain-0022

“I used to know 800 songs,” Toelken says. “I had this stroke, and I had none of these songs left in my head. None of them were left.”

But, Toelken says, he soon discovered that, with a little positive reinforcement, he could remember some of the forgotten music after all.

“A little bit at a time, I realized I still had the songs in my head,” he says. “So now I meet with this group of friends once a week a week, and we sing.

“This group doesn’t use any musical instruments, because I can’t play the guitar since the stroke hit me,” Toelken says. “And they did that as a sign of respect, I think. But they’ve all said how much they’ve learned about the songs since they quit using the guitar because instead of concentrating on their hand moving, they have to concentrate on the words.”
Hear the story.

 

Yoga may boost your brain power

Yogis may be enjoying a surprising benefit when they unroll their mats and strike a pose. A new study finds that just 20 minutes of hatha yoga stimulates brain function.

Researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign enlisted 30 subjects to take tests of working memory and inhibitory control, two measures of brain function associated with the ability to focus, retain, and use new information, the researchers said.

Subjects who took a single, 20-minute yoga session were significantly faster and more accurate on their tests than subjects who walked or jogged on a treadmill for 20 minutes.
Participants on the treadmill exercised with the goal of maintaining 60 to 70 percent of their maximum heart rate throughout the exercise session. “This range was chosen to replicate previous findings that have shown improved cognitive performance in response to this intensity,” the researchers said.

“Yoga is an ancient Indian science and way of life that includes not only physical movements and postures but also regulated breathing and meditation,” said study lead Neha Gothe. “The practice involves an active attentional or mindfulness component but its potential benefits have not been thoroughly explored.”

Subjects who practiced yoga performed a 20-minute sequence of seated, standing, and supine yoga postures, with the class ending in a meditative posture and deep breathing.

“It appears that following yoga practice, the participants were better able to focus their mental resources, process information quickly, more accurately and also learn, hold and update pieces of information more effectively than after performing an aerobic exercise bout,” Gothe said.

“The breathing and meditative exercises aim at calming the mind and body and keeping distracting thoughts away while you focus on your body, posture or breath,” she said. “Maybe these processes translate beyond yoga practice when you try to perform mental tasks or day-to-day activities.”

Findings, announced June 5, appear in the Journal of Physical Activity and Health.
A separate study published last month finds that twice-weekly yoga sessions can reduce high blood pressure. In the study, researchers led by Dr. Debbie Cohen of the University of Pennsylvania tracked 58 women and men, aged 38 to 62, for 24 weeks.

Another study published earlier this year in the journal Frontiers in Psychiatry found that the practice may soothe depression and help sleep problems.

Read more:A 20-minute yoga session may boost your brain power – The Denver Post