Friday, October 20, 2017

Examining the Acute Effects of Hatha Yoga and Mindfulness Meditation on Executive Function and Mood - Kimberley Luu and Peter A. Hall

Summary and Critique by Evan Garfield

Hatha yoga, the most popular style of yoga in Western society, aims to cultivate mind-body awareness and higher states of consciousness. It involves mindful physical posturing, breathing exercises, and mindfulness meditation. Mindfulness meditation is the practice of non-judgemental observation of present thoughts, emotions, and body sensations with openness and acceptance.

According to the authors, hatha yoga has the potential to improve a variety of cognitive functions including attention, memory, and executive function (EF). EFs are a set of cognitive abilities that allow for self-regulation of thought, emotions, and behaviors. EFs includes inhibition, initiation, working memory, self-control, planning/organization, emotional control, and mental flexibility.
Studies also show that hatha yoga has the potential to improve mood outcomes. The authors explain that hatha yoga is a beneficial treatment for various mood disorders including psychological distress, anxiety, and depression.

The authors emphasize that current literature on yoga is robust and lacks investigation of acute practice. Furthermore, they suggest that cognitive and mood benefits may be separable. Accordingly, they designed an experiment to compare the acute effects of mindfully practiced hatha yoga and mindfulness meditation on its own on cognitive and mood outcomes.

Findings revealed that 25 min of hatha yoga and mindfulness meditation significantly improved EF task performance and total mood. Although hatha yoga presented a greater overall effect, improvements did not differ significantly from each other. Yoga's advantage was driven by complex physical postures that help increase attentional processes. According to the authors, the improved effects emerged following a 10 minute delay. These results were consistent with findings of other studies on acute exercise, in which effects emerged during the 11 to 20 minute post-exercise period. The authors suggest the meditation-induced sedative effects of yoga and mindfulness meditation may need time to subside before cognitive benefits are identifiable.

This study gave some interesting insight into the benefits of yoga and mindfulness mediation on cognitive performance and mood. Although the results did not differ significantly, it was interesting to see that yoga had a stronger effect than meditation by itself, attributed to complex physical postures driving attentional processes. Furthermore,  while the authors reveal that yoga and mindfulness meditation improved EF task performance, they fail to elaborate if specific EFs(inhibition, initiation, working memory, self-control, planning/organization, emotional control, mental flexibility) were improved more than others. It would be interesting to conduct further research focusing more narrowly on these attributes. Overall, both hatha yoga and mindfulness mediation appear to be valuable exercises for employers across all sectors to improve morale, productivity, cohesion, organization, and planning within their organizations.


The Effects of Yoga on Stress, Stress Adaptation, and Heart Rate Variability Among Mental Health Professionals--A Randomized Controlled Trial

By Samuel Farnan


A group of researches set out to measure the effect Yoga would have on a group of mental health professionals. They argue the need for this study is due to the increasing demands by the general public for mental health therapy. More so, the amount of emotional stress that mental health professionals are subjected to and more importantly, expected to overcome is also increasing. These professions include psychologist, psychiatrists, social workers, and occupational therapists. 

The research design utilized 60 mental health professionals that at the time of the study, were not involved in any regular exercise program. 30 of the mental professionals did yoga once a week for 60 minutes and 30 did not, with the test span lasting a total of 12 weeks. Results of work-related stress and stress adaptation were measured via biofeedback monitors (objective) and personal surveys (subjective). The biofeedback monitors measured various nerve activity while questions for the survey included "Do you feel overloaded?" and "Do you experience difficulty in getting along with colleagues?". These measurements were calibrated on a 60-point stress scale.

Overall, the participants who did yoga displayed increased adaptation to stress and lowered stress that was directly related to their work. In a more specific analysis of co-variance (ANCOVA) the yoga group showed significant change in work-related stress and autonomic nerve activity, but not actual stress adaptation. The researchers propose that yoga can offer physiological and autonomic balance to manage stress, but not the actual skills of stress adaptation. Furthermore, the researchers proposed further study should include more yoga--two to three times of this study-- to determine an optimal range of yoga practice for mental health professionals.


Although the benefits of yoga are well known at this point, I feel this study applies quite well to intelligence professionals. Like these mental health professionals, intelligence professionals are expected to make the most objective decisions possible, eliminating bias and emotion often under tight deadlines and stressful conditions. However, this study could've done better in some areas. The researchers took 60 mental health professionals that were not on any physical exercise regimen prior to the 12-week study. Is yoga more effective on stress management than running, lifting, swimming, etc.? I would enjoy seeing yoga compared to other physical activities, especially swimming, as both utilize and depend on breathing sequences along with the reduced stimuli of both activities. 

The Effects of Yoga on Mood in Psychiatric Inpatients

Summary and critique by: Kevin Muvunyi

A group of researchers conducted a study in 2005 to determine the effects of practicing yoga, a widely renowned relaxation and meditation method in the world, on the mood of 113 inpatients at the New Hampshire Hospital. Prior to the start of the research exercise, inpatients were directed to answer a Profile of Mood States (POMS) questionnaire. This questionnaire which is a measure of the six major negative emotion factors was also handed out to be completed by the inpatients at the end of each yoga session and this for a total period of ten days. The inpatient group used in the study was comprised of a total of 59 women and 52 men.

As a result of the study, the researchers were able to observe that practicing yoga demonstrated a positive effect on five of the six major negative emotion factors on the POMS. Namely the tension-anxiety, depression-dejection, anger-hostility, fatigue-inertia, and confusion-bewilderment emotional elements. On the other hand, participating in yoga sessions showcased no positive effect on the sixth PMOS factor, which is vigor-activity. Moreover, the researchers noted that the participation of an individual in more yoga classes than his peers had no substantial consequence on his overall mood.

Globally the initiators of the research concluded that yoga could prove to be an efficient technique to reduce stress levels and mental illness symptoms amongst patients in highly restrictive and controlled areas such as hospitals based on their observations. Nonetheless, they conceded that due to the uncontrolled nature of the study, further research was required to validate their findings. The researchers also pointed to the possibility of their study being inaccurate based on the premise that the inpatients completed the POMS forms with a prior intent of satisfying the perceived expectations of those conducting the research.


Overall the study was well designed with a sufficient sample size to make substantial observations. Nonetheless, the uncontrolled nature of the experiment suggests that the findings of the research exercise are inaccurate. Further research, should explore the possibility of introducing a control group in the experiment, and also seek to explain the reason behind the inefficacy of the yoga technique in regards to improving the emotional factor of “vigor” in a mentally ill individual.