Meditation or hatha yoga - which one is better?

written by Meena Azzollini

woman performing yoga in a class with eyes closed Credit:123RF

There are plenty of studies which have proven the benefits of yoga and meditation for our health and wellbeing.

Both the physical aspect of yoga and mind-based meditation has similar effects on mind-body function. Both focus on the brain’s conscious processing power on a limited number of aspects such as breathing and posing while reducing the processing of non-essential information.

But how do the two forms compare?

In a study from the University of Waterloo, researchers conducted a study to compare the acute effect of hatha yoga and mindfulness meditation on executive function and mood.

The researchers found that after both the hatha yoga session and meditation session, the participants performed significantly better on executive functions compared to the reading task.

Using a within-subjects experimental design, 31 study participants who were moderately experienced in hatha yoga completed three counterbalanced sessions: 25 minutes of hatha yoga (conscious movement and meditation), 25 minutes of meditation (mindfulness of breath, emotions, thoughts, and body sensations), and 25 minutes of quiet reading control task. This was done in random order.

Executive function was assessed using the Stroop task at baseline and at two follow-up points (5 and 10 min post-session) while self-reported mood was measured using the Profile of Mood States (POMS) at baseline and immediately after a follow up session.

The researchers found that after both the hatha yoga session and meditation session, the participants performed significantly better on executive functions compared to the reading task.

This suggests that something about meditation may be special as opposed to physical posing, which carries a lot of cognitive benefits.

Both hatha yoga and meditation were effective in improving energy levels though hatha yoga showed significantly greater benefits on the vigour-activity subscale.

Both hatha yoga and meditation both resulted in significantly improved POMS total mood scores.

Overall the findings of this study suggest that both hatha yoga and meditation can significantly improve brain function, mood and energy levels.

Although the benefits of meditation include improved cognitive functions, hatha yoga’s rigorous physical aspect contributes to better physical form, flexibility and strength along with the meditative aspects derived from breathing exercises. This, perhaps, suggest that hatha yoga may have more benefits for our health and wellbeing than meditation alone.

Source: Mindfulness


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Meena Azzollini

Meena is passionate about holistic wellbeing, alternative healing, health and personal power and uses words to craft engaging feature articles to convey her knowledge and passion. She is a freelance writer and content creator from Adelaide, Australia, who draws inspiration from family, travel and her love for books and reading.

A yoga practitioner and a strong believer in positive thinking, Meena is also a mum to a very active young boy. In her spare time, she loves to read and whip up delicious meals. She also loves the smell of freshly made coffee and can’t ever resist a cheesecake. And she gets tickled pink by anything funny!