Practising Hatha yoga — a combination of asanas, pranayam and meditation — along with mindfulness meditation daily for just 25 minutes can significantly improve brain function and energy levels, according to a new study.
The findings showed that both Hatha yoga or mindfulness meditation everyday can boost the brain’s executive functions, cognitive abilities linked to goal-directed behaviour and the ability to control knee-jerk emotional responses, habitual thinking patterns and actions.
“Hatha yoga and mindfulness meditation both focus the brain’s conscious processing power on a limited number of targets like breathing and posing, and also reduce processing of nonessential information,” said Peter Hall, associate rofessor at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada.
“These two functions might have some positive carryover effect in the near-term following the session, such that people are able to focus more easily on what they choose to attend to in everyday life,” Hall added.
Hatha yoga — one of the most common styles of yoga practiced in Western countries — involves physical postures and breathing exercises combined with meditation.
Mindfulness mediation, on the other hand, involves observing thoughts, emotions and body sensations with openness and acceptance.
In the study, published in the journal Mindfulness, participants completed 25 minutes each of Hatha yoga, mindfulness meditation, and quiet reading (a control task) in randomised order.
Mindfulness meditation and Hatha yoga were both found effective for improving energy levels, but Hatha yoga had significantly more powerful effects than meditation alone.
Yoga improves energy levels and cognitive test performance, because it helps the release of endorphins, increase blood flow to the brain, and reduce focus on ruminative thoughts, explained Kimberley Luu from the varsity.