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J Altern Complement Med. 2016 Feb;22(2):125-33. doi: 10.1089/acm.2014.0091. Epub 2015 Sep 23.

Hatha Yoga and Executive Function: A Systematic Review.

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1 Faculty of Applied Health Sciences, University of Waterloo , Waterloo, Ontario, Canada .
2 Department of Kinesiology, University of Waterloo , Waterloo, Ontario, Canada .



Recent reviews have documented the beneficial effects of seated meditation on executive function (EF). However, there has yet to be a comprehensive review on the effects of Hatha yoga, a moving meditation, on EF.


To examine the empirical literature on the effects of Hatha yoga on EF.


MEDLINE, Scopus, and PsycINFO databases were searched for experimental studies (between- or within-subject designs) testing the effects of Hatha yoga (acute bouts, short-term interventions, longer-term interventions) on EF.


A total of 11 published studies met eligibility criteria: Three studies involved healthy adults, 2 studies involved healthy older adults (n = 2), 1 study involved children and adolescents, and 5 studies involved medical (n = 4) or forensic (n = 1) populations. In healthy adults, 2 of 3 studies suggested that acute bouts of Hatha yoga improved EF; however, 1 study using a short-term intervention found no improvements in EF. Among healthy older adults, 1 study provided evidence that Hatha yoga improves EF. In child/adolescent samples, 1 study supported the contention that Hatha yoga improves EF after short-term interventions. Among medical populations, EF improved in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus and in 1 of 3 studies involving patients with multiple sclerosis. The sole study involving impulsive prisoners showed positive effects on EF with a short-term intervention.


Hatha yoga shows promise of benefit for EF in healthy adults, children, adolescents, healthy older adults, impulsive prisoners, and medical populations (with the exception of multiple sclerosis). However, more good-quality studies that evaluate the efficacy of Hatha yoga's effects on EF are essential to build on this evidence base.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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