As classes, exams, workload, and commitments creep into already busy schedules, students tend to forget the need to keep calm and breathe.

Published in the September 2017 edition of Mindfulness, a paper led by Waterloo student Kimberley Luu may present a solution.

“Practicing brief sessions of Hatha yoga and mindfulness meditation can significantly improve brain function and energy levels,” stated the study.

Hatha yoga is one of the most popular styles of yoga practiced in Western society.

Simply, it is based on a system of asanas (otherwise known as yoga postures), and pranayama, or breathing exercises.

Hatha yoga is believed to bring peace to the body and mind, as well as prepare the physical state for deeper spiritual practices such as meditation.

One might ask themselves, “How is sitting on the floor with my eyes closed going to help me finish up my ME 100 homework?”

Yet the paper proved that 25 minutes of mindfulness meditation or Hatha yoga per day, may contribute to an individual’s ability to “boost the brain’s executive functions, cognitive abilities linked to goal-directed behavior, the ability to control knee-jerk emotional responses, habitual thinking patterns, and actions.”

In other words, one might be able to work more efficiently, as well as increase overall energy levels and wellbeing.

While academics may rank first on the priority list, by overlooking the importance of the type of deliberate stillness presented by Hatha yoga and mindfulness meditation, students risk putting their health on the line.

In fact, the lack of sleep and exercise may eventually contribute to muscle atrophy, cardiac decline, and other adverse health effects.

Luu believes that, “There are a number of theories about why physical exercises like yoga improve energy levels and cognitive test performance.

These include the release of endorphins, increased blood flow to the brain, and reduced focus on ruminative thoughts. Though ultimately, it is still an open question.”

Thanks to Luu’s research, which contributes to growing evidence to support the health benefits of yoga, one can hypothesize that the first step to getting smarter and stronger may be as simple as 25 minutes of physical practice per day.

To get involved in some mentally-encouraging yoga, try out the yoga classes offered on campus.

For more information, visit the UW Athletics website.

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