Unrolling your mat and striking a yoga pose does more than just tone the body. Practicing yoga also improves focus for daily life, heightening the ability to concentrate on simple and complex tasks. In addition to the physical practice of yoga postures (known as “asanas”), most yoga classes also include a beginning or ending period of meditation, as well as breathing exercises, known as pranayama. This combination of a meditative, physical practice together with breathing exercises improves focus for daily life.
According to a recent study, practicing yoga for just 20 minutes a day improves focus and brain function. The study compared 20 minutes of yoga with 20 minutes of aerobic exercise and measured the impact of yoga or exercise on focus and cognitive brain function.1 According to the study’s finding, yoga participants were better able to focus their mental resources; quickly and accurately process information; and learn, hold and update pieces of information more effectively than the aerobic study participants.
A similar study found that twice-weekly yoga sessions can reduce high blood pressure and alleviate stress. Reducing stress and enhancing the mind-body connection is also important for improved focus and mental acuity.1
Yoga includes not just physical movements, but also regulated breathing and meditation. Bringing mindfulness to movement and breath carries beyond yoga practice and translates into daily life. While Westerners traditionally regard yoga as a physical discipline, in the East yoga is considered a mindful discipline. A well-rounded yoga practice will focuses on achieving clarity of thought, daily mindfulness, and a positive outlook. In fact, most classes purposely sequence postures to not only develop strength and flexibility, but to help synchronize breath with movement and bring stillness to the mind. This prepares participants for the final resting pose, known as savasana, at the end of class.
Individuals do not need to be super-flexible or athletic to practice yoga. There are many styles that are accessible and approachable for individuals of all ages and athletic abilities. Additionally, daily meditation can be practiced either in conjunction with yoga or in a quiet space at home. With regular yoga practice, many individuals find that they not only gain physical strength and flexibility, but also are better able to focus their minds on the present.
New York Daily News. “Doing yoga for 20 minutes improves focus and brain function: study.