How yoga balances mindfulness and exercise to boost mood

As 2021 gets underway, new resolutions and healthy goals are front of mind for many, especially as COVID-19 continues to highlight

Researcher, UniSA’s Jacinta Brinsley.

the importance of mindfulness and the value of exercise.

So, it’s timely that health researchers at the University of South Australia are seeking volunteers to examine how combining mindfulness with physical activity in relation to the practice of yoga, can help relieve symptoms of depression and anxiety.

Researcher, yoga practitioner and UniSA clinical exercise physiologist, Jacinta Brinsley says yoga has evolved over thousands of years to wind up in Western culture with a strong emphasis on ‘asana’, the physical movement component of yoga.

“Traditionally, yoga never looked like it does now – full of fancy poses and challenging sequences. Instead, modern yoga has evolved into a physical practice that can be considered a combination of exercise and mindfulness,” Brinsley says.

“Unlike many workouts, where our minds are distracted by other matters – such the big assignment you’ve got coming up the next day, or what to feed the family later in the week – yoga demands a high level of awareness and attention, both physically and mentally.

“As research shows that exercise and mindfulness independently deliver positive outcomes for mental health, it makes sense to look at their effects when combined in yoga.

“Our study is unique in that it is investigating acute changes in mood from just a single session, and is measuring whether certain amounts of exercise, mindfulness, or combinations – for example, yin yoga or vinyasa – are helpful for boosting mood.”

The study hopes to inform how certain types of yoga may be used as evidence-based exercise prescription in the management of mental ill-health.

Participants will engage in five different sessions over a five-week period with each session having a different combination of exercise intensity and mindfulness.

“For example, vinyasa yoga is a moderate-intensity exercise with mindfulness, while yin yoga has a very light intensity, but with a strong focus on mindfulness,” Brinsley says.

“We are using a validated outcome measure called the Profile of Mood States (POMS) to capture changes in mood from before and after the session.”

Researchers are now looking for volunteers to take part in the study, with participants needing to have an experience of depression and / or anxiety and not currently practicing yoga, mindfulness or meditation more than once a week.

Notes to editors:

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