To carry out the study, a team of researchers at the University of Waterloo in Ontario examined 31 participants who were instructed to perform 25 minutes of Hatha yoga, 25 minutes of mindfulness meditation, and 25 minutes of quiet reading in random order.
The results showed that spending 25 minutes daily on yoga and meditation helped enhance the participants’ brain function and goal-directed behavior. Likewise, the research team observed a marked improvement in the participants’ emotional response and energy levels.
“There are a number of theories about why physical exercises like yoga improve energy levels and cognitive test performance. These include the release of endorphins, increased blood flow to the brain and reduced focus on ruminative thoughts. Though ultimately, it is still an open question,” lead author Kimberly Luu told the Daily Mail.
“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. Although the meditative aspect might be even more important than the physical posing for improving executive functions, there are additional benefits to Hatha yoga including improvements in flexibility and strength. These benefits may make Hatha yoga superior to meditation alone, in terms of overall health benefits,” study author Professor Peter Hall said in a separate Psych Central article.
Studies: Mindfulness-based programs may relieve job-related anxiety
The results of the recent study coincide with two new studies demonstrating the beneficial effects of mindfulness meditation on job-related stress.
In the first study, 30 executives from a large oil company were offered 16 weeks of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) training, which included a one-day introductory session and single-day training at the end of the fourth and eighth weeks.
The executives were also provided with audio recordings of daily mindfulness practices and exercises, instructions on coping with stress, and a supporting workbook. Some of the participants even took part in a daily, 30-minute practice group.
The results showed that the 22 remaining participants who finished the training exhibited better physical and emotional health, improved health-related habits, and enhanced sleep at the end of the 16-week study period. They also reported less perceived stress and had lower blood cortisol and blood pressure levels.
In another study, 15 faculty and staff from two Australian universities were instructed to undergo a seven-week, modified MBSR program. The program offered weekly 60- to 90-minute mindfulness lessons, instructions in sitting meditation and best practices in performing a body scan and incorporating mindfulness in daily activities.
Study data showed that the employees demonstrated increased mindfulness skill, heightened awareness, and improved focus. The employees were also found to sleep better, pay more attention to physical tension, and spend less time thinking about the past and the future. (Related: Study: Best treatment for anxiety is mindfulness meditation.)
Dr. Elizabeth Hoge, a psychiatrist at the Center for Anxiety and Traumatic Stress Disorders at Massachusetts General Hospital and an assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, noted that performing mindfulness meditation may serve as a perfect remedy against anxiety attacks.
“People with anxiety have a problem dealing with distracting thoughts that have too much power. They can’t distinguish between a problem-solving thought and a nagging worry that has no benefit. You might think ‘I’m late, I might lose my job if I don’t get there on time, and it will be a disaster!’ Mindfulness teaches you to recognize, ‘Oh, there’s that thought again. I’ve been here before. But it’s just that—a thought, and not a part of my core self,” Dr. Hoge said.