Yoga and meditation have long been associated with stress relief and improving one’s ability to find calm and focus. Yoga has other physical benefits, such as improving muscle tone and flexibility. A recent study out of Canada finds that brief sessions of Hatha yoga and mindfulness meditation may also improve the way your brain responds to everyday challenges and give you more energy to get through your day. Hatha yoga is a fairly common type of yoga. Most of the standard yoga classes you see advertised teach Hatha yoga. Like mindfulness meditation, Hatha yoga tries to focus the brain’s conscious processing ability on a limited number of subjects, while dismissing or eliminating (temporarily) nonessential information and stimuli.
The research, published in the journal Mindfulness, suggests that a yoga session or mindfulness meditation of 25 minutes a day may help boost the brain’s executive functions. Executive functions are mental skills that help the brain organize and act on information. They allow you to plan, remember, prioritize, pay attention and follow through on everyday tasks and larger projects.
In the Mindfulness study, participants in random order did 25 minutes of yoga, 25 minutes of mindfulness meditation, and 25 minutes of quiet reading. Tests of executive function were done after the sessions. Participants performed significantly better after the meditation and yoga sessions than after the reading. Energy levels were also much higher after yoga and meditation, compared with the levels reported after reading. However, participants reported having the most energy after yoga. If you’re interested in trying yoga, look for beginners’ classes or find a trainer for some one-on-one lessons to get you started.