Mindfullness + Physical Activity = Yoga

What do mindfulness and physical activity have in common? Yoga! Unlike exercises such as weight lifting or interval training, yoga specifically encourages practitioners to be mindful throughout their exercise. Mindfulness includes being aware of one’s present experience without judging it – that is, accepting it without labeling it as good or bad. This acceptance component of mindfulness means not reacting to or blocking current thoughts, emotions or sensations. When we say, “be with what is, as it is, here and now” in class, we are invited to practice acceptance.

Ruffault, Bernier, Thienot, Fournier, and Flahault (2017) were interested in how physical activity, mindfulness, and acceptance could relate to anxiety and depression. They had 100 people complete an interview about these traits. They found that by looking at physical activity, mindfulness, and acceptance with a computer model, they were able to predict 21% of the differences in people’s depression scores. That means that the model could guess some of the depression people reported based on information about how active and mindful people said they were.  

The study authors were not able to find any results about how mindfulness and physical activity could predict levels of anxiety. However, people who reported higher levels of mindfulness and acceptance had lower anxiety. Because this study was a one-time interview, it does not address the possible effect of mindfulness and physical activity on anxiety over time.

This research illustrates how mindfulness is a key component of yoga, and that sets it apart from other physical activities. Next time you’re thinking about skipping savasana, consider instead taking a deep breath, and accepting what you’re thinking and feeling in that moment. Your mental health is likely to benefit.


Mental Health Spotlight provided by Katie Pizziketti in collaboration with the Temple University Collaborative on Community Inclusion of Individuals with Psychiatric Disabilities. 

The Temple University Collaborative receives funding from the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR grant number #90RT5021-02-00). NIDILRR is a Center within the Administration for Community Living (ACL), Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). This article does not necessarily represent the policy of NIDILRR, ACL, HHS, and you should not assume endorsement by the Federal Government.

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