The Relationship Between Restorative Yoga and Executive Function
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This study investigated potential differences in executive function among those who practice restorative yoga (n = 86), those who practice traditional yoga (n = 51), and those with no yoga experience (n = 163). The majority of participants were female (90%) and college educated (26% with college credit but no degree, 7% with Associate’s degree, 19% with Bachelor’s degree, 15% with graduate degree), and their ages ranged from 18 to 72 (M = 27.54, SD = 12.47). In this online study, after completing a brief survey, participants completed six computerized tests of executive function, two assessing cognitive flexibility (Wisconsin Card Sorting Task and Trail Making Task), two assessing inhibitory control (Stroop Task and Go/No-Go Task), and two assessing working memory updating (N-Back Task with Letters and N-Back Task with Shapes). Data were analyzed with a MANCOVA, controlling for demographic variables that differed between groups. Although the MANCOVA’s omnibus test was not significant, the tests of between-subjects effects revealed that the groups significantly differed on the percent of perseverative responses on the Wisconsin Card Sorting Task, with the restorative yoga group performing better than the traditional yoga and control groups (p = .03). These findings suggest that restorative yoga may have a slightly beneficial effect on cognitive flexibility. Regarding the lack of significant group differences on the other variables, it is important to note that data were collected in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, when many of the yoga practitioners may not have been regularly practicing yoga, and perhaps this regular practice is necessary to obtain benefits in executive function.