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Want to feel more focused and energized? Try Hatha yoga, meditation

A new study found that just 25 minutes of Hatha yoga or mindfulness meditation daily improved cognitive functioning and energy levels.
Practicing Hatha yoga or mindfulness meditation for just 25 minutes a day can make your brain work better. Photo: ISTOCK

If you’ve been feeling foggy-headed, distracted, sluggish — pretty standard for any day in the life — there is self-care you can incorporate into your daily routine that might help you feel better. 

A new study from the University of Waterloo found that practicing Hatha yoga or mindful meditation for 25 minutes a day can improve energy levels, focus and cognitive performance. 

What’s the science behind that effect? 

Because Hatha yoga and mindfulness meditation “both focus the brain's conscious processing power on a limited number of targets like breathing and posing, and also reduce processing of nonessential information” after practicing, “people are able to focus more easily on what they choose to attend to in everyday life," explained study author Peter Hall, associate professor in the School of Public Health & Health Systems at the University of Waterloo. 

Published in the journal Mindfulness, the study had 31 participants practice 25 minutes of Hatha yoga, 25 minutes of mindful meditation and 25 minutes of quiet reading and then tested their cognitive functioning. 

The researchers found that participants performed better after both the yoga and meditation sessions compared to after reading, and also felt more energized — though post-yoga, energy levels were slightly higher. 

Theorizing about why yoga might improve energy and focus, lead author Kimberley Luu noted yoga’s resulting “release of endorphins, increased blood flow to the brain and reduced focus on ruminative thoughts.”

And because Hatha yoga incorporates breathing exercises and mindful meditation into its practice of physical poses, which improve strength and flexibility, and reduce back pain, participants might get more benefits from it than doing meditation alone.

Think of it as a restorative time-out from a stressful day — that you also reap the benefits of after. And it's barely any time at all. You can get off Instagram for 25 minutes.