Title: Effect of Yoga on Working Memory and Mindfulness.
Objective: To study the effect of Yoga practice on Working Memory and Mindfulness.
Numerous studies have been conducted in the field of Cognitive Psychology. Research on Working Memory have also been successful and are found to be beneficial. Working Memory (WM) is a part of the Short-Term Memory where, temporary storage, processing and numerous cognitive functions are involved.
WM is measured with the help of WAIS Digit Span Forward Task. Yoga is Union of the Body to the Soul and Soul to the Universe.
It includes Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana, Samadhi, i.e. Postures, Breathing Techniques, Meditation, Focus, all of this practiced with dedication.
Yoga is about Stretching, Breathing Practices and Relaxation. Mindfulness includes meditation practices. When practiced regularly, increase in awareness and focus is observed (Devon B. et al., 2017).
A study by Devon B. et al. (2017) – A Yoga Program for Cognitive Enhancement, was conducted. The objective of this study was to Measure the effect of Yoga and Mindfulness on working memory of Adolescents.
A total of 43 (Above 18 years) participants were approached and the tasks administered were- WAIS IV: Digit Span, WAIS IV: Letter- Number Sequencing, and Mindful Attention Awareness Scale (MAAS).
Here a within- subjects design was used. A week before the yoga sessions, the participants had completed their tests. Later, their yoga programs started and these participants went through a demographic questionnaire. The results obtained implied that Yoga and Mindfulness, when practiced regularly improved the functioning of the Working Memory (Devon B.
et al., 2017).
Dianna Q., et al. (2015) conducted- A Randomised Controlled Examining the Effect of Mindfulness Meditation on Working Memory Capacity in Adolescents. A total of 198 adolescents were approached who were between the ages of 12 to 17 years and were fluent in English.
The conditions were Mindfulness Meditation, Hatha Yoga or the Waitlist Control. They were asked to complete the Automated Operational Task, Perceived Stress Scale and Screen for Childhood Anxiety Related Emotional Disorders. It was observed that the participants in the Mindful Meditation task showed improvement in the Working Memory Capacity whereas the HathaYoga and waitlist group did not (Dianna Q., et al. 2015).
Kimbrough et al. (2007) conducted a study to study the effect of 3 inverted yoga positions on memory. They hypothesized that the increased blood flow caused by the inverted yoga positions would result in an improvement in memory. Short term memory was measured using a verbal test.
The study included 300 participants divided into 4 groups i.e. a Solomon Four design. Group 1 was introduced only to a yoga intervention, and to the verbal post test. Group 2 was given a pre test, yoga intervention, and a post test. Group 3 was the first control group which was given only a post test of memory. Group 4 formed the other control group which was given both the pre and post memory test.
Using such a design the researchers ensured that any relationship seen between the variables was caused by the intervention alone, and not by the tests administered. A 2×2 factorial ANOVA was used to test for the significance of the results.
Surprisingly, no significant relationship was found between the variables. However, the researchers attributed the findings to the duration of the study. Since it was a short term study the findings may not be very accurate. Moreover, perhaps using more than 3 yoga positions could have resulted in a large variance of results (Kimbrough et al., 2007)
Joice et al. (2018) studied the influence of yoga on the memory, attention and concentration of medical students in the age group of 18-22 years of age. The 100 students were randomly divided into the experimental and control group. The students in the experimental group were made to practise yoga for 30 minutes, 5 times a week, for a period of 12 weeks with the help of a certified yoga trainer.
The students were also given a Postgraduate Institute memory scale before and after the intervention period. The scores of each group were analysed using a paired t test. The results of the study indicated that the group of students who had been exposed to the yoga intervention showed significant improvements in memory, attention and concentration as compared to the control group.
Further research conducted has shown that yoga results in higher levels of gyrification or folding of the cerebral cortex, which in turn allows it to process more information. Improved performance could also be the result of activation of neural pathways due to the yoga exercises. Thus, the study proves that daily yoga practise can have substantial benefits for one’s cognitive processes (Joice et al., 2018).
Gothe et al. (2014) studied the effects of an 8 week yoga intervention on the executive cognitive functioning of older adults. The study focused solely on a geriatric population, with the mean age of the participants being 62 years. The participants were randomly assigned to either a Hatha yoga intervention (experimental group), or a matched active exercise group (control group).
Both groups included an element of exercise to ensure that it was the yoga that was causing the changes and not just some form of activity. Both groups engaged in activity thrice a week for a period of 8 weeks. Cognitive functioning was measured using three computer based tests.
The first was a task switching test. In this test, response time was measured as participants switched between judging if a number is odd or even, or if it high or low. The second test was a running memory span test. Participants were required to recall the next n numbers, from the string m of letters provided to them. Points were assigned for each item correctly recalled in the appropriate serial position.
The last test was an N-back task which tested the working memory of participants across 2 consecutive phases. The data collected was statistically analysed using an SPSS 20.0. Independent t tests were also conducted to examine whether significant mean differences existed in the demographic, health, and physical activity variables among the 2 groups at a baseline level.
The results of the study indicated that the group practising Hatha yoga showed a much larger increase in cognitive functioning as compared to the stretching exercise group. Hatha yoga involves posture, breathing, awareness, and meditative practises. It has been shown that focus on these aspects of the body, along with increased activity rate is extremely beneficial for cognitive functioning of older adults (Gothe et al., 2014).
Hypothesis: Participants who received the yoga intervention will perform better on Working Memory and Mindfulness tasks than those participants who didn’t receive the yoga intervention.The Mindfulness Attention Awareness ScaleParticipants who will receive the Yoga intervention will perform better on Working Memory and Mindfulness tasks than those participants who will not receive the Yoga intervention.
Null Hypothesis: There is no difference in the Working Memory and Mindfulness task between participants who received yoga intervention and those who didn’t receive. There will be no difference in performance on Working Memory and Mindfulness tasks between participants who will receive Yoga intervention and participants who will not.
Independent Variable: Yoga intervention s.There is one I.V.- Yoga Sessions having two levels, i.e. participants who receive Yoga Sessions and participants who will not receive Yoga Sessions.
Dependent Variable: Performance on Working MemoryThere are 2 D.V.s in this study. First is Working Memory measured by Automated Working Memory Assessment (AWMA-2). Second is Mindfulness measured by The Mindfulness Attention Awareness Scale.
The pre-test on AWMA – 2 and MAAS is given one week before yoga sessions and post-test one week after yoga sessions.
Participants from both groups have to keep a record of everyday events.
15 minutes break between the AWMA-2 and MAAS during pretest and posttest.
The data will be collected from a Mumbai-based corporate company. The supervisor of this company will assign 60 employees for this study with equal number of male and female participants. These participants will be divided into two groups of 30 each. One group (experimental group) will receive the Yoga sessions and the second group (control group) will not receive Yoga sessions.
The Automated Working Memory Assessment (AWMA-2): It was developed by Tracy P. Alloway in 2007. It is a fully automated online assessment of working memory. It is standardized from early childhood (5 years) to adulthood (69 years).
It provides three measures each of verbal and visuo-spatial short-term and working memory. Tasks such as non-word recall, listening recall, backward digit recall, dot matrix task, spatial recall etc are used. The long form was used consisting of 8 tests .The test-retest reliability was found to be 0.82 and the validity was found to be 0.80.
The Mindfulness Attention Awareness Scale (MAAS): It was developed by Brown K.W. and Ryan R.M. in 2003. It is a 15 item scale designed to assess mindfulness. Items are scored on a 6 point Likert scale ranging from 1= almost always and 6= almost never. All items are first person statements. Thus, higher scores reflect more mindfulness. To score the scale, a mean (average) of the 15 items should be found. The reliability of this test was found to be 0.91.
This will be a quasi-experimental study that will use a non-equivalent control group pretest posttest design. In this design a dependent variable will be measured before and after an intervention. One group will receive the intervention and then will be compared to another group which will not have received any intervention.
The advantage of this design is that we can compare scores before and after the experimental group receives treatment and also with the non equivalent control group which does not receive any intervention (Creswell, 2019), i.e. the group which received the yoga intervention and the group which did not, are tested prior to and post intervention.
At first, a Mumbai-based corporate company supervisor will be approached who can assign required number of employees as participants for the study. Demographic details of these participants will be obtained. The participants will be divided into two groups (experimental and control group) of 30 each, with an equal number of males and females in each group.
Both groups of participants will be separately briefed about the study and information will be given on what is expected of them. Then informed consent of participants from both groups will then be obtained.
A week before commencement of the yoga sessions, participants from both groups will be asked to complete a baseline assessment of Automated Working Memory Assessment-2 (long form) for 30 minutes. A 15 minute break will be provided. After this, participants will have to complete another questionnaire- Mindful Attention Awareness Scale.
The yoga intervention will be provided only to the experimental group. No intervention will be given to the control group. The format of yoga sessions would be 4 times a week for half an hour over a span of 3 months. The timing for these sessions will be early mornings between 6 am to 7 am preferably.
These sessions will be held in a yoga studio in Mumbai. The yoga asanas selected for this study were recommended by a regular yoga practitioner and instructor to improve memory performance and mindfulness. These are relatively easy to do everyday especially for novices. The yoga intervention will be carried out in the following way:
A trained yoga instructor with 5 plus years of experience will be recruited to guide the intervention. A ten minute guided mindfulness meditation will be conducted by the yoga instructor before each session.
This will include focused attention and meditation. At the end of each session, participants will be asked to choose a set of positive affirmations or think of something to be thankful for in the present moment. Home practice will not be required and participants will be asked to document and provide information about home practice or any other significant life changes prior to every yoga class.
The participants from control group will also be asked to document their everyday activities and any significant events experienced.
A week after the yoga sessions end, a posttest will be conducted on both the experimental and control group. The same AWMA-2 form will be administered first, and after a 15 minute break, the MAAS questionnaire will be given. The pretest-posttest results will be compared on both tests to find out any significant differences.
For this study, informed consent of participants from both groups will be obtained. It will be communicated that their participation is voluntary and will be assured that there is no harm. Permissions will also be obtained from the company to allow their employees to participate in the study.
The supervisor will be informed about the details of the study and how it will be conducted. Finally, permissions will be taken from the Yoga instructor to conduct the sessions and also for the studio it will be conducted in. The consent forms for the same have been attached in the appendix section.
There is one I.V. (Yoga Session) having two levels (Yoga sessions and no Yoga sessions) and there are two D.V.s (Working Memory and Mindfulness). Since Working Memory is measured on Ratio scale, the proposed statistical analysis is t-randomized test to find out any significant differences between the experimental and control groups.
Mindfulness is measured on Interval scale, thus proposed statistical analysis is t-randomized test to find out any significant differences between the experimental and control groups.