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Improvement of Brain Function through Combined Yogic Intervention, Meditation and Pranayama: A Critical Analysis

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Abstract

Background: The practice of yoga includes static and dynamic postures (asanas), breathing manipulations (pranayama) and meditation (dhyana). Yoga is a tool which works in the gross body level to the shuttle mind level. Yoga is a simple and inexpensive health regimen that can be incorporated as an effective adjuvant therapy for the improvement of brain and mental activity. Aim: To review scientific literatures related to yoga practice and brain function. Science and critically analyzed the entire relevant article according to the nature of this study. Findings: Combined yogic practices improve memory which can influence the academic performance of the students. Meditation practices improve higher level of concentration and consciousness which may reduce the psychic disorder. Pranayama practice may be applied as alternative therapy for reducing stress related diseases Conclusions: Regular yogic practices may improve brain and others neuro cognitive functions.
European Journal of Physical Education and Sport, 2016, Vol.(13), Is. 3
89
Copyright © 2016 by Academic Publishing House Researcher
Published in the Russian Federation
European Journal of Physical Education and Sport
Has been issued since 2013.
ISSN: 2310-0133
E-ISSN: 2310-3434
Vol. 13, Is. 3, pp. 89-96, 2016
DOI: 10.13187/ejpe.2016.13.89
www.ejournal7.com
Improvement of Brain Function through Combined Yogic Intervention, Meditation
and Pranayama: A Critical Analysis
Anup De a , *, Samiran Mondal a
a Exercise and Sport Physiology Laboratory, Department of Physical Education, Visva-Bharati,
Santiniketan, West Bengal, India
Abstract
Background: The practice of yoga includes static and dynamic postures (asanas), breathing
manipulations (pranayama) and meditation (dhyana). Yoga is a tool which works in the gross body
level to the shuttle mind level. Yoga is a simple and inexpensive health regimen that can be
incorporated as an effective adjuvant therapy for the improvement of brain and mental activity.
Aim: To review scientific literatures related to yoga practice and brain function.
Method: Researchers collected scientific evidences through electronic databases; Pubmed,
Embase, Medline, Google Scholar, Google Advance Search, PsycINFO, ROAJ, DOAJR, Web of
Science and critically analyzed the entire relevant article according to the nature of this study.
Findings: Combined yogic practices improve memory which can influence the academic
performance of the students. Meditation practices improve higher level of concentration and
consciousness which may reduce the psychic disorder. Pranayama practice may be applied as
alternative therapy for reducing stress related diseases
Conclusions: Regular yogic practices may improve brain and others neuro cognitive
functions.
Keywords: Yoga, Meditation, Pranayama, Brain function, Neuro psychology.
1. Introduction
Brain is the sites of mind and mental function. Brain has three specific areas, lower brain,
mid brain and fore brain. This three parts control different types of mental function. Brain is a vast
area and lakhs of specialized neurons engage themselves for different types of mental activities.
Some area stores the memory where as the other control intelligence level. The development of
brain function started from the early childhood and it continuous up to the starting point of ageing.
Obviously there is an individual difference in brain function. The improvement of brain function is
related with educational development, job performance, professional achievement and sports
performance. Ageing and injury may decline the brain function. Scientist are trying to improve
brain function by different modes and methods and to delay the decling of brain function.
For the improvement of brain function pharmacological drugs, natural products, different
types of chemical has been used in different civilization from the ancient time. Indian is the only
ancient civilization who identified vyamaya (physical exercise) and yoga (mental exercise) for the
* Corresponding author
E-mail addresses: anupde2013@gmail.com (Anup De)
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development of brain function and especially the mental function. By definition yoga is a practice
to control and develop the mental function. In yoga techniques they used different types of asanas,
pranayama and meditation as a whole or in a part. In this article, the present researcher reported
improvement of brain function related literatures with the intervention of pranayama, meditation
and combined yoga intervention. It is interesting to note that there is no such literature found till
date on asanas effect on brain function.
2. Objective of the Study
The specific objective of this systematic review study was to explore the improvement of
brain function through meditation, pranayama and combined yogic intervention.
3. Methods
3.1 Acquisition of Evidence:
In this systematic review study a thorough online searching procedure was applied for
acquisition of evidence. The electronic databases: PubMed, Embase, Medline, Google Scholar,
Google Advance Search, PsycINFO, ROAJ, DOAJR and Web of Science were carefully searched for
the purpose of reviewing the literatures.
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3.2 Inclusion and Exclusion Criteria:
Studies related to the objective of this paper were included in this project whereas studies
which were not directly matched with the concept of analysis were excluded from the process.
3.3 Selection Procedure of Review Articles:
In the first attempt, a total 132 article with full text were assessed on the basis of eligibility
criteria. Out of which only 51 papers were fulfill the objective of this study. Detail selection
procedure adopted for this study is presented in the Figure-1.
A growing body of scientific evidence indicates that yoga has a positive influence on brain
function. In this systematic review, the studies related with the yoga and brain function are
summarized under the following heads.
4. Improvement of brain functions through combined yogic intervention:
Long term combined yoga practice improves primary cognitive processes such as attention,
perception, reaction time, accuracy, and observation (Verma, 2015; Banerjee, 2014; Gothe, 2013).
Short term yoga practice for 10 days in school children lead to significant improvement in cognitive
function (Reddy, 2015). Short term integrated yoga practices can improve memory scores of
diabetics and play a vital role in managing the mental health of diabetics patient (Bhanu, 2015).
The effect of eight-week yoga exercise improve balance with intellectual disability (Parisa, 2015).
Combination of regular yoga practice with orel hypoglycemic agents improve better cognitive
abilities in type 2 diabetic population rather than administration of oral hypoglycemic agents alone
(Nagothu, 2015). Yoga module can improve attention and remembrance which may positively
affect on academic performance of students (Ramkumar, 2014). Yoga practices are correlated to
neurophysiological system that increases in associative attention and positive affective valence
(Mackenzie, 2014). Regular practiced of yoga module yielded higher concentration levels and
exhibited better short term memory (Kauts, 2012). Yoga has a beneficial effect on P300 wave and
thus can be incorporated along with the conventional medical therapy for improving cognitive
brain functions in diabetes (Kyizom, 2010). 8 weeks sahaj yoga practice improve neurocognitive
function and it can lead to additional improvement in executive functions like manipulation of
information in the verbal working memory and added improvement in attention span and visuo-
motor speed of the depressives (Sharma, 2006). Pranayama and yoga-asana practice on P300 wave
latency and amplitude in type 2 Alzheimer patients have beneficial effect on reduction of Alzheimer
and thus can be incorporated along with the conventional medical therapy for improving cognitive
brain functions (Tripathi). Yoga practice supported by a common paralimbic brain network which
linked to awareness, attention and emotion in order to support memory dependent self reference
(Lou, 2011). Combined yoga practice reduces the comorbid anxiety and depression (Forbes, 2008).
Yogic education system enhances visual and verbal memory scores (Rangan, 2009).
Yoga based stress management programme on brain wave coherence recorded with brain
master EEG 2 channel and found that the delta, theta, alpha gamma wave coherence increases
19.31 %, 5.04 %, 15.40 %, 18.68 % respectively and 1.67 % decrease in beta wave coherence between
pre and post intervention measurements (Ganpat, 2011). Yogic intervention improve alpha-EEG
level of working women which causes brain come in relax and cool state (Bharadwaj, 2013). 40
days pranakarshan pranayama and yoga nidra practice improve the pranic energy level and change
alpha dominance in the brain which influences the mental relaxation, reduce anxiety and stress
(Kumar, 2009). Regular yogic intervention improves delta, theta, alpha and beta brain waves
which improve overall brain function with emphasis on attention and concentration (Boonjaksilp).
Combined yoga practice improve various cognitive behavior in terms of physiological parameters
by using EEG and ECG analysis, where indicates improvement in parasympathetic activity and
decrease in sympathetic activity. Yoga modifies the sympathovagal balance towards
parasympathetic activation, improved the heart rate variability, and enhanced sense of wellbeing
(Nagendra, 2015). Five weeks of brain waves vibration training, Iyengar yoga and mindfulness
programme improve sleep latency, absorption, memory, salivery cortisol, mood, mindfulness and
reduce overall stress (Bowden, 2012). Breathing, meditation, and posture-based yoga progamme
increased overall brain wave activity, increases gray matter along with amygdala and activate the
frontal cortex (Desai, 2015).
MRI and voxel-based morphometry analysis observed three years combined yoga meditation
practice improve gray matter volume in frontal, limbic, temporal, occipital, and cerebellar regions
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of the brain of 1855 years people (Froeliger, 2012). Combined yoga meditation practice may be
associated with the promotion of neuroplastic changes in executive brain systems and using by
fMRI, which may confer therapeutic benefits that accrue with repeated practice (Froeliger, 2012).
Fluid intelligence declined with age as a natural process and it have a negative impact on brain
function. Fluid intelligence declined slowly than the natural process with combination yoga and
meditation practice (Gard, 2014). 12 weeks yogic intervention increase serum brain-derived neuro-
trophic factor (BDNF) and maintenance of serum serotonin level in premenopausal women (Lee,
2014). Yoga stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system and increase the inhibitory action of a
hypoactive GABA system in brain pathways and structures that are critical for threat perception,
emotion regulation, and stress reactivity (Streeter, 2012). 12 weeks yoga practices improve y-
aminobutyric acid (GABA) which also helps to reduce the mood and anxiety disorder (Streeter,
2010). Regular 60 minutes yogasana and breathing exercise practices improve 27 % brain GABA
level (Streeter, 2007).
Regular practices of yoga have beneficial effects on both phases of parasympatho-dominance
and psychological well-being probably by balancing neuro-endocrinal axis (Kanojia, 2013). Yoga
and meditation should be recommended as an adjuvant therapy along with medication to tilt the
autonomic balance to parasympathetic dominance to get relieved from hypertensive symptoms
(Sharma, 2013). Yoga practice decreases sympathetic activity and causes a shift in the autonomic
balance towards parasympathetic dominance and indicates helps to reduce stress by optimizing the
autonomic functions (Patil, 2012). 12 weeks yoga training program can changes in the brain’s
baseline and activated cerebral blood flow, dorsal medial cortex, and right sensorimotor area and
greater impact found in right hemispheric function, particularly in the frontal lobes (Cohen, 2009).
Yoga enhanced the vagal activity and reduced cortisol in turn may contribute to positive effects
such as enhanced immune function and lower prematurity rate (Field, 2011).
5. Improvement of brain functions through meditation
Effect of yoga meditation practice and EEG wave was analyzed and it was observed that
immediate yoga meditators have greater source of activity in low frequencies particularly theta and
alpha wave during mental calculation. Advance yoga meditators showed greater activity in high
frequencies (beta and gamma) in all conditions (Thomas, 2014). Other researcher reported that
EEG based improvements in cognitive abilities like attention and working memory with meditation
practice (Singh, 2014).
Two years meditation experience activates the bilateral hippocampi which are related to
memory consolidation (Engstrom, 2009). Long term meditation practices positively improve in
gray matter atrophy (Luders, 2014). Regular meditation practice positively affect on frontal region,
anterior cingulated, limbic system and parietal lobes of the brain. Strong correlation was found
between depth of meditation and neural activity in the left inferior forebrain areas including the
insula, inferior frontal cortex and temporal lobe (Wang, 2011).
Long term meditation practice improves over all cognitive functions (memory, attention,
perception, observation ability, processing speed, neural activity, intelligence executive function
etc.) which energies brain to focus on its task (Singh, 2012; Khalsa, 2004; Prakash, 2011).
Meditation technique may be able to offset age related cognitive decline and perhaps even increase
cognitive capabilities (Gard, 2014). Meditative practices can be used as leveraged in the prevention
and intervention of mental illness (Rubia, 2009).
6. Improvement of brain functions through Pranayama
Two months Sheetali and Sheethkari pranayama practice improve in the delta and alpha
band power in the frontal and occipital regions and an increase in theta band power in the frontal
region with a marked decrease in beta band power almost throughout the entire hemisphere which
keeps brain calm and quiet with less anxiety (Thanalakshmi, (2014). Bhramari pranayama practice
can generate controlled high-frequency gamma waves by using EEG signals which is contributed to
improve the active thought (Vialatte, 2008). 20 minutes Nadi-Shodhana pranayama practice
advocated improving cardio-respiratory efficiency as well as higher functions of brain in healthy
individuals. Pranayama practice may be applied as alternative therapy or as adjunct to
conventional therapy in stress related diseases (Gupta, 2014). If a person is breathing
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predominately with the left nostril, that person’s right hemisphere of the brain will be more active
and putting out a greater electrical signal than the left hemisphere (Srinivasan, 1991).
7. Conclusion
Brain and neuro psychological profile decreases with age is a natural process and it have a
negative impact on brain function. Yoga could be considered as a precious tool in the path of mind
body medicine. Yoga have a potential benefits on brain health because this ancient Indian
technique particularly trained the psycho-physical system. Combined yogic practices improve
memory which can influence the academic performance of the students. Meditation practices
improve higher level of concentration and consciousness which may reduce the psychic disorder.
Pranayama practice may be applied as alternative therapy for reducing stress related diseases such
as essential hypertension, neuro degenerative and Parkinson diseases. So the yogic practices
improve brain function in multiple pathways.
8. Acknowledgement
The researchers are thankful to the University Grand Commission (UGC), Ministry of Human
Resource Development (MHRD), Govt. of India for their financial support in this project.
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... [23] In addition, super brain yoga also significantly improves the alpha wave score. [24] Yogic practices increase alpha wave activity in the occipital and prefrontal cortices in both hemispheres, which enhances better relaxation. [22] Asana pranayama practice significantly increases alpha wave activity during police training. ...
... [9] Similarly, long-term yoga practice can increase gray matter volume that acts as an alternative therapy for reducing neurological disorder. [30] Yoga practice improves autonomic flexibility by modulating parasympathetic dominance, [24,[31][32][33] and significant changes are found in sensory motor rhythm around the brain. [18,34] Yoga helps to contribute the amygdale function and increases brain wave activity that is associated with increase in positive mood and perception. ...
... [18,34] Yoga helps to contribute the amygdale function and increases brain wave activity that is associated with increase in positive mood and perception. [9,24] Integrated yoga including agnisara, nauli, and bhastrika practice changes the EEG pattern around the somatosensory and parietal areas of the cerebral cortex. [22,35] Scientists are trying to test that yoga improves the central neural processing ability that may attribute to greater arousal and faster rate of information-processing ability. ...
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Background: The recent hype in yoga practice is concomitant with the fact that it helps the practitioner to achieve radiant health and serene mind. The science of yoga has also become a powerful stream of knowledge. It has increased the number of scientific studies on different yogic interventions, but has also been performed to evaluate its effects on brain wave activity, particularly in neural oscillations. Objectives: In this systematic analysis, we reviewed studies investigating the effect of integrated yoga, meditation, and pranayama on brain wave activity that affects overall cognitive functions. Methods: Broad search strategy was practiced using several online databases: PubMed, Google Scholar, Web of Science, Embase, Medline, PsycINFO, Europe PMC, Scopus, and IndMED. Studies were included in integrated yoga, meditation, and pranayama with brain wave activity, and the entire relevant articles were critically analyzed according to the nature of this study. Results: Several studies examined yogic interventions for restoring brain functions, nerve diseases, and cognitive impairment and suggested that integrated yoga, meditation, and pranayama practices improve verbal skills, reaction time, hand–eye coordination, speed accuracy, and neural activity. Yogic intervention increases overall brain wave (delta, theta, alpha, beta, and gamma) activity, which increases overall cognitive functions with greater perceived cognition, working memory, attention, better switching ability, focusing ability, positive mind, and perception. It has also been reported that yogic intervention activates dormant areas of brain while downgrading memories not of interest and upgrading useful ones. Conclusions: There is emerging evidence from randomized controlled trials to support yoga practice, which significantly improves brain wave activity resulting in better cognitive functions.
... In this investigation, six brain waves were assessed for the measurement of electrical responses of the brain activity, namely delta amplitude, theta amplitude, alpha amplitude, sensory-motor rhythm (SMR) amplitude, beta amplitude, and gamma amplitude, which are claimed and believed to identify the characteristics of the state of mental functions (De & Mondal, 2016). ...
... In the human body, the brain is the supreme coordinator that regulates any kind of movement and function. The electrical activity of the brain results in the emergence of new oscillations which indicates the state of mental functions (De & Mondal, 2016). The scientists correlate this electrical activity with a state of mental activity as an intervention of yoga. ...
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Background: Yoga is a practice to control and develop the mental function. Scientists are trying to establish the effect of yoga on the various systems and organs in the human body by using different scientific methods and research techniques. The brain is one of the main targeted organs in yoga research. Objective: The objective of this study is to identify the electrical responses of the brain after immediate yogasana practices. Materials and Methods: Ten male (n=10) yoga practitioners having more than 8 years of experience in yogasana practice were selected as participants. Before and after immediate practices of six specific yoga postures were assessed on three different consecutive days for 15, 22.5, and 30 min. Delta, theta, alpha, sensory-motor rhythm (SMR), beta, and gamma amplitudes were assessed under the circumstance of electrical activity of the brain and measured using NeXus-10 device. Results: The outcome of the brain wave components showed that there was a decrease in delta (9.12%, 12.3%, and 19.52%), theta (12.32%, 15.9%, and 16.09%), alpha (11.99%, 17.49%, and 13.21%), SMR (6.89%, 17.27%, and 13.5%), beta (0.29%, 13.95%, and 14.4%) amplitude immediately after 15, 22.5, and 30 min practice of yoga postures, respectively. In the case of gamma amplitude, initially, it increased 8.58% in 15 min practice, there after decreasing trend was observed in 22.5 min (11.47%) and 30 min practice (15.9%). Conclusions: Immediate yogasana practices may enhance the functions of brain wave activity which increases motor activity, autonomic flexibility, and associates with a better cognitive state.
... Yoga helps to decrease the sympathetic tone and simultaneously increases the parasympathetic tone [37] by a number of mechanisms. It causes an increase in the sensitivity of the baroreceptor reflex [38] which improves the tissue oxygenation [39] and favorably affects the nervous system metabolism and autonomic functions. ...
... Higher HRV in experienced yoga practitioners can hence be attributed to its influence on the ANS through the brain stem region. [44] The reduced HR is the cause of decreased sympathetic activity with an alter in the autonomic stability toward parasympathetic dominance, [37] which may cause vasodilation and increase the blood supply to different tissues in the body. [45] During the state of concentration in Yoga Nidra PNS activates and the locus ceruleus stimulation of the paraventricular nucleus of the hypothalamus decreases, which also decreases in baroreceptor stimulation and secondarily releases its inhibition of the supraoptic nucleus, leading to the release of arginine vasopressin. ...
... Indeed, Yoga is a tool that operates from the gross body to the mind's shuttle. Yoga is a low-cost and easy-to-follow health regimen that can be used as an adjuvant treatment for improving brain and mental function (De & Mondal, 2016). Furthermore, exercise affects dopamine levels and guarantees sufficient sleep for dopamine supply. ...
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... If the income effects are substantial and persistent and if the better-educated parents have superior consumption skill and are better informed of long-range health effects of consumption patterns they will usually be able to take better care of their off-spring Body height and weight acquired by . children and adolescents during growth and development [13] are the impressive indicators of an individual's health and nutritional status as well as a mirror of the social and economic betterment of a country [14]. ...
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... Soccer is an art and includes thousands of decisions deciding the result of the match [12]. Elite soccer players require high levels of cognitive, perceptive, and motor skills in a rapidly changing environment, [13][14][15][16][17] as the game is very intelligible [18]. Thus the cognitive ability plays an important role in performing a soccer skill [19] because soccer moments are mostly unpredicted and it hides on the brain of the player. ...
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... Another study done by VR Hariprasad et al, showed that yoga-based intervention will be useful in improving cognition in elderly [47]. Anup De et al. [48] concluded by saying that regular yogic practices improve brain and other neuro-cognitive functions. ...
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Background A growing number of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) have investigated the therapeutic value of yoga interventions. This bibliometric analysis aimed to provide a comprehensive review of the characteristics of the totality of available randomized yoga trials. Methods All RCTs of yoga were eligible. Medline/PubMed, Scopus, the Cochrane Library, IndMED, and the tables of content of yoga specialty journals not listed in medical databases were screened through February 2014. Bibliometric data, data on participants, and intervention were extracted and analyzed descriptively. Results Published between 1975 and 2014, a total of 366 papers were included, reporting 312 RCTs from 23 different countries with 22,548 participants. The median study sample size was 59 (range 8–410, interquartile range = 31, 93). Two hundred sixty-four RCTs (84.6%) were conducted with adults, 105 (33.7%) with older adults and 31 (9.9%) with children. Eighty-four RCTs (26.9%) were conducted with healthy participants. Other trials enrolled patients with one of 63 varied medical conditions; the most common being breast cancer (17 RCTs, 5.4%), depression (14 RCTs, 4.5%), asthma (14 RCTs, 4.5%) and type 2 diabetes mellitus (13 RCTs, 4.2%). Whilst 119 RCTs (38.1%) did not define the style of yoga used, 35 RCTs (11.2%) used Hatha yoga and 30 RCTs (9.6%) yoga breathing. The remaining 128 RCTs (41.0%) used 46 varied yoga styles, with a median intervention length of 9 weeks (range 1 day to 1 year; interquartile range = 5, 12). Two hundred and forty-four RCTs (78.2%) used yoga postures, 232 RCTs (74.4%) used breath control, 153 RCTs (49.0%) used meditation and 32 RCTs (10.3%) used philosophy lectures. One hundred and seventy-four RCTs (55.6%) compared yoga with no specific treatment; 21 varied control interventions were used in the remaining RCTs. Conclusions This bibliometric analysis presents the most complete up-to-date overview on published randomized yoga trials. While the available research evidence is sparse for most conditions, there was a marked increase in published RCTs in recent years.
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Previous research has shown the vast mental and physical health benefits associated with yoga. Yoga practice can be divided into subcategories that include posture-holding exercise (asana), breathing (pranayama, Kriya), and meditation (Sahaj) practice. Studies measuring mental health outcomes have shown decreases in anxiety, and increases in cognitive performance after yoga interventions. Similar studies have also shown cognitive advantages amongst yoga practitioners versus non-practitioners. The mental health and cognitive benefits of yoga are evident, but the physiological and structural changes in the brain that lead to this remain a topic that lacks consensus. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to examine and review existing literature on the effects of yoga on brain waves and structural changes and activation. After a narrowed search through a set of specific inclusion and exclusion criteria, 15 articles were used in this review. It was concluded that breathing, meditation, and posture-based yoga increased overall brain wave activity. Increases in graygray matter along with increases in amygdala and frontal cortex activation were evident after a yoga intervention. Yoga practice may be an effective adjunctive treatment for a clinical and healthy aging population. Further research can examine the effects of specific branches of yoga on a designated clinical population. Copyright © 2015 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
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BACKGROUND: Concentration means wholeness unity, equilibrium. It is the focusing of attention upon a particular object. Memory is an ability to recall or remember past events or previously learnt information or skills. The process of concentration of attention and a power of recalling (memory) are the major factors in learning. Improvement in concentration and memory has been reported in several yogic studies. AIMS AND OBJECTIVES: The main objective of the study was to assess the effect of yoga module on Concentration and Memory. MATERIALS AND METHODS: The study started with 800 adolescent students; 159 high stress students and 142 low-stress students were selected on the basis of scores obtained through Stress Battery. Experimental group and control group were given pre-test to assess their concentration as well as short term memory. A yoga module consisting of yoga asanas, pranayama, meditation, prayer and a value orientation programme was administered on experimental group for 7 weeks. The experimental and control groups were post-tested for their performance in concentration and memory tests. RESULTS: The results show that the students, who practiced yoga module yielded higher concentration levels and exhibited better short term memory.