What You Probably Don’t Know About Yoga


This single word is so simple yet holds so much weight. Traditionally used as a greeting and way of demonstrating respect in India, this iconic salutation – typically accompanied by a bow with one’s hands placed at the heart or forehead – symbolizes the joining of two people’s energies.

Over time, this greeting has become unmistakably associated with the practice of yoga and mindfulness meditation, and is likely to be both the first and last word you hear in any yoga class. While these practices have ancient foundations rooted deeply in religion, they have become far more secular in the West and are regarded more as a method for relaxing, distressing, and regaining focus. However, even in the absence of religion, the benefits of yoga and meditation remain the same – and they’re seemingly never-ending.

While yoga and mindful meditation have been practiced for centuries (some experts and archeologists date it back to 5,000 BCE), scientific research into these practices remains relatively recent. It was not until the 1960s that meditation emerged as a hot research topic in academia, following profound discoveries by Indian researcher and psychologist Dr. B.K. Anand. Anand, who is known today as a pioneer in yoga and meditation research, discovered that yogis who had perfected the art of meditation could become so entranced in their practice that they would not react to surrounding stimuli, even when hot objects were pressed on their body.

Since Anand’s discovery over 50 years ago, new findings continue to demonstrate the incredible benefits, both mental and physical, of practicing yoga and meditation. Some of the most recent findings emerged during a study at the University of Waterloo, conducted by lead researcher Dr. Kimberly Luu.

Luu’s study revealed yet another health benefit of practicing yoga and meditation, this time pertaining to cognitive abilities. The study, published in Mindfulness in August, found that there are far more benefits to yoga and meditation than simply de-stressing and clearing one’s mind – they actually have the ability to significantly improve executive functions in the brain. 

According to the study, practicing meditation or Hatha yoga – the most common form of yoga in the West, which combined physical poses and mindful breathing techniques – for only 25 minutes a day can immediately “boost the brain’s cognitive abilities linked to goal-directed behavior,” says Luu.  In turn, this allows individuals to better control their emotions, improve thinking patterns, and reduce impulsive actions and reactions. The study also showed that both meditation and Hatha yoga significantly improved energy levels in participants.

The findings of this research are not entirely shocking. After all, past studies on the benefits of yoga and meditation have shown that these practices are effective in managing stress, reducing physical pain, and even minimizing risk factors of cardiovascular disease. It isn’t a surprise that there are more hidden perks to yoga and meditation; but what is particularly interesting about this study – and what is perhaps most relevant for many working individuals – is that these health improvements can be achieved in less than half an hour.

As life gets busier and to-do lists get longer, carving out time to make it to a yoga class can be much easier said than done; but Luu’s research shows that all it takes is 25 minutes of practice to better control emotions, increase energy levels and improve cognitive function. Plus, with hundreds of apps like Headspace and Yoga Studio: Mind & Body available for smartphones, these practices can be done anywhere, at any time, and at any pace.

Devoting only 25 minutes could make all the difference in your day – and your overall health.