The Influence of Yoga on the Cognitive Function of People Aged 60 Years and Older: A Systematic Review

Sigal Eilat-Adar, Michal Shenhar, Devora Hellerstein, Ayelet Dunsky

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Context • With aging, cognition declines, leading to functional limitations and a loss of independence. Yoga is a particular kind of physical activity that can have a positive influence on cognition in older adults, because it aims to improve physical skills and to enhance the ability to focus and to neutralize external mental stimulation. Objective • The literature review intended to evaluate the effects of different types of yoga interventions and to examine which cognitive functions were affected by them for healthy people aged 60 years and older. Design • A search of the terms “yoga and cognition” and “yoga and cognitive function” was conducted using the PubMed and EBSCO databases. For inclusion, an article must have: (1) included healthy participants aged 60 and above, (2) been an intervention lasting between one week and six months, and (3) been an RCT. Three reviewers independently assessed each study. Setting • The Academic College at Wingate, Israel Participants • Out of 503 articles, only five met the inclusion criteria, and had in total 461 participants, 128 men and 333 women, aged 60 years and older. Interventions • Interventions in the studies lasted between one and six months. Yoga methods included Hatha yoga, Trataka yoga, Iyengar yoga, and Himalayan Siddha yoga. Outcome Measures • Methods and tools applied in the studies were compared. The outcome measures examining cognitive functions included working memory, executive functions, visual memory and processing, focus and attention, and reaction time. Brain physiology outcomes were also screened. Results • An analysis of the type of yoga method was conducted and is presented in terms of the length and frequency of each intervention, the tests applied, and the effects of each intervention. In three articles, with a total of 293 subjects, the yoga intervention groups showed significant improvements in the ability to perform various cognitive functions as compared to the control groups. In two articles, with a total of 168 participants, no significant improvements were found for any of the groups, and none of the articles reported a decline. Conclusions • The studies differed in the type of yoga, length of the intervention, and type of cognitive-function assessments, making results inconclusive. Nevertheless, based on the examined randomized controlled trials (RCTs), overall yoga may offer benefits to cognitive function. However, a greater number of RCTs with a larger number of participants and rigorous research methods are required to support this recommendation. (Altern Ther Health Med. 2023;29(1):269-279).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)269-279
Number of pages11
JournalAlternative Therapies in Health and Medicine
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2023
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023, InnoVision Communications. All rights reserved.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Complementary and alternative medicine


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