A Yoga Program for Cognitive Enhancement
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Background: Recent studies suggest that yoga practice may improve cognitive functioning. Although preliminary data indicate that yoga improves working memory (WM), high-resolution information about the type of WM subconstructs, namely maintenance and manipulation, is not available. Furthermore, the association between cognitive enhancement and improved mindfulness as a result of yoga practice requires empirical examination. The aim of the present study is to assess the impact of a brief yoga program on WM maintenance, WM manipulation and attentive mindfulness.
Methods: Measures of WM (Digit Span Forward, Backward, and Sequencing, and Letter-Number Sequencing) were administered prior to and following 6 sessions of yoga (N = 43). Additionally, the Mindfulness Attention Awareness Scale was administered to examine the potential impact of yoga practice on mindfulness, as well as the relationships among changes in WM and mindfulness.
Results: Analyses revealed significant improvement from pre- to post- training assessment on both maintenance WM (Digit Span Forward) and manipulation WM (Digit Span Backward and Letter-Number Sequencing). No change was found on Digit Span Sequencing. Improvement was also found on mindfulness scores. However, no correlation was observed between mindfulness and WM measures.
Conclusions: A 6-session yoga program was associated with improvement on manipulation and maintenance WM measures as well as enhanced mindfulness scores. Additional research is needed to understand the extent of yoga-related cognitive enhancement and mechanisms by which yoga may enhance cognition, ideally by utilizing randomized controlled trials and more comprehensive neuropsychological batteries.