, Volume 8, Issue 4, pp 873–880 | Cite as

Examining the Acute Effects of Hatha Yoga and Mindfulness Meditation on Executive Function and Mood

  • Kimberley LuuEmail author
  • Peter A. Hall


The objective of this study was to compare the acute effects of hatha yoga and mindfulness meditation on executive function and mood. Using a within-subjects experimental design, 31 moderately experienced hatha yoga practitioners (mean age 27.71 ± 8.32) completed three counterbalanced sessions: hatha yoga (conscious movement and meditation), meditation (mindfulness of breath, emotions, thoughts, and body sensations), and a reading control task. Executive function was assessed using the Stroop task at baseline and at two follow-up points (5 and 10 min post-session). Self-reported mood was measured using the Profile of Mood States (POMS) at baseline and immediately following each session. Findings indicated that hatha yoga (p = .002) and meditation (p = .044) both resulted in significantly improved Stroop performance, though the two conditions did not differ significantly from each other (p = .728). The cognitive benefits in both cases were evident at the 10-min post-session delay but not at the 5-min post-session delay. With respect to mood outcomes, hatha yoga (p < .001) and meditation (p = .050) both resulted in significantly improved POMS total mood scores. Hatha yoga and meditation did not differ significantly from each other in regard to POMS total mood (p = .079), though hatha yoga showed significantly greater benefits on the vigor-activity subscale (p = .006). Overall, findings suggest that acute bouts of hatha yoga and mindfulness meditation benefit executive function and mood to a similar degree.


Yoga Mindfulness meditation Exercise Cognition Executive function Mood 



The authors thank University of Waterloo Applied Health Science faculty members Dr. John Mielke and Dr. Richard Staines, for their valuable inputs to the project design; Prevention Neuroscience Laboratory members Cassandra Lowe, Fahd Munir, and Petar Grkinic for their assistance in data collection; and yoga studios Moksha Yoga Waterloo and Queen Street Yoga for their valued support in the recruitment process.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the Office of Research Ethics at the University of Waterloo and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Public Health and Health SystemsUniversity of WaterlooWaterlooCanada
  2. 2.Department of KinesiologyUniversity of WaterlooWaterlooCanada

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