Table of Contents  
Year : 2022  |  Volume : 54  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 128-132

Yoga and attention: A systematic review

Department of Yoga Science, University of Patanjali, Haridwar, Uttarakhand, India

Date of Submission02-Jun-2022
Date of Decision01-Sep-2022
Date of Acceptance14-Sep-2022
Date of Web Publication15-Dec-2022

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Sandeep Singh
Department of Yoga Science, University of Patanjali, Haridwar - 249 405, Uttarakhand
Login to access the Email id

Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/ym.ym_66_22

Rights and Permissions

In modern times, people are suffering from numerous types of difficulties. Stress and mental problems have become part of one's life. Excessive use of mobile phones, other electronic devices, and drug intake has caused many cognitive and mental problems. Attention, memory, and cognitive functions are affected by electronic and digital devices. Previous studies have shown that yoga can reduce stress and anxiety and improve cognitive functions such as attention and memory. The patient, intervention, comparison, and outcome search strategy was used to identify the keywords. Using the key words “yoga and attention,” 285 studies were identified from three databases (PubMed, Cochrane Library, and Science Direct) and a search engine (Google Scholar). For discussion, 18 studies were included in the review. There was a wide range of age groups where the effectiveness of yoga on attention had been researched. This systematic review also revealed that attention in children also depends on memory development and anxiety. The particular study on the systematic reviews showed the high effectiveness of yoga, yogic exercises, mindfulness, and other yogic techniques on the level of attention among children. The study also revealed the coexistence of attention with memory development.

Keywords: Attention, children, memory, yoga

How to cite this article:
Yadav K, Yadav A, Singh S. Yoga and attention: A systematic review. Yoga Mimamsa 2022;54:128-32

How to cite this URL:
Yadav K, Yadav A, Singh S. Yoga and attention: A systematic review. Yoga Mimamsa [serial online] 2022 [cited 2023 Jun 6];54:128-32. Available from:

  Introduction Top

The practice of yoga has been regarded as a spiritual discipline since ancient times. Modern scientific researchers have shown its efficacy for the benefit of humankind at a different level of persona, mainly attention. Modern cognitive psychologists believe that attention is the constant process of filtering out information from one's perceived surroundings and focusing on specific elements.[1],[2] In a study, meditation practice is associated with changes in the physical structure of the brain and positively impacts attention in an individual. Compared to controls, meditation participants had thicker brain areas involved with attention and sensory processing than matched controls.[3] Another study discovered that regular meditation practice is linked to a significant increase in attention ability.[4] The elucidation of the neurological basis of conscious experience requires a mechanical understanding of attention. Working memory, top–down sensitivity control, competitive selection, and automatic bottom-up filtering for salient stimuli are the four processes that makeup attention. Each process contributes to attention in a vital and essential way.[5] Attention is a required element of cognition and has been characterized in two ways, namely, (i) either as a capacity or (ii) as a skill of resource implementation. Attention is the ability to attend to a task for the needed time.[6] Some other causes affecting attention are found to be drug abuse. Attention is negatively affected using marijuana and positively affected using nicotine.[7],[8] The substantial use of alcohol affects the cognition and attention of college students.[7] A study has shown that 20%–30% of the diagnosed population suffered primarily from attention deficit.[9] Several studies investigated the effects of yoga on cognitive functions and found that it had effects on attention. Meditation has shown a positive impact on attention.[10] A study found that yoga practice had improved attention and memory in children.[11] Another study found that the practice of yoga and meditation improves cognitive skills, sustained and divided attention, concentration, short-term memory, visual information processing, working memory, complex cognitive speed, and flexibility of students.[12] To our knowledge, there is no systematic review assessing the effects of yoga on attention. Hence, this systematic review aimed to assess the effects of yoga on attention.

  Materials and Methods Top

Search strategies

The present review used electronic database searches with PubMed, Cochrane Library, and Science Direct, supplemented with Google Scholar search. From January 2015 to December 2020, published scientific studies (randomized control trial, case studies, and pilot studies) in English were reviewed. The search expression used for the search strategy was “yoga” and “Attention.” The present study primarily relied on electronic searches (online databases) as a part of this review.

Screening and selection

Article selection was determined through successive screening of the study design, titles, abstracts, and full-text articles based on the level of assessment required to ascertain eligibility.

Inclusion criteria

The current systematic review includes studies published in English under the titles “yoga” and “Attention” with full-text articles, with participants of all ages and suffering from any disease.

Exclusion criteria

Conference abstracts, books, review articles, theses, and dissertations were not included in the present systematic review. Articles other than English language articles were excluded from the study.

Data extraction

The studies that fulfilled the inclusion and exclusion criteria were assessed in detail. Information that was extracted from the records included the author, year of the study, sample size, study design, and age group of samples. Clarifications and doubts, if any, were sorted out by brainstorming and mutual discussion.

  Results Top

A total of 18 studies were included in the review [Figure 1]. After searching databases, 285 articles were identified (Cochrane Library = 83, PubMed = 69, Science Direct = 87, and Google Scholar = 46). Two hundred and sixty-seven studies were excluded from the study. Two hundred and thirty-four studies were excluded because they did not have “yoga” or “Attention” in their titles. Twelve studies were excluded due to duplication. Nine studies were excluded because they were not in the English language. Six studies were excluded because they were theses, dissertations, or books. Three studies were excluded because they were reviews. Three studies were not relevant to the objective of the study. The most common instrument used was the Trail Making Test , followed by other rating scales including the Letter Cancellation Task, Six-Letter Cancellation Test, Visual Attention Test, Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) Rating Scale-IV, d2-R, strengths and weaknesses of ADHD symptoms and normal behavior (symptoms and normal-behavior), Digit Cancellation Test, Attention Control Scale, Test/Digit Span Test and Stroop Color Test, Mindful Attention Awareness Scale, Response Inhibition Task, Number–Letter Task, Attention Network Task, Continuous Performance Test, Conners' Continuous Performance Test (CCPT), Second Edition CCPT, ADHD RS-IV Preschool Version, Visual Pursuit Test, and Determination Test. The sample size of the studies varied from 20 to 802, from the age group of 3 to 35+ years.
Figure 1: Identification and Inclusion of the study

Click here to view

  Discussion Top

The systematic literature reviews using the patient, intervention, comparison, and outcome strategy show that yogic practices and allied interventional approaches significantly affect the cognitive functions, particularly attention and anxiety, in samples of different age groups. The reviews had a wide range of studies with different age groups [Table 1]. All the studies included in systematic reviews have been classified into five different age groups.
Table 1: Number of literature reviews article with the sample's age group

Click here to view

Out of 285 papers screened, 18 research papers included for the discussion [Table 2] shows a significant impact on attention. The research articles also reveal some additional information and its effects. Primary school children and adults having attention problems with the age groups between 7 and 14 years and 17 and 35 years simultaneously discussed. The six studies between the age group 7 and 14 years included showed high significance in improvements in memory and performance of the samples. The studies included suggest an improvement in attention for the 17–35 year age group with yoga as an independent variable. The five studies in the age groups 0–7 and 14–17 also show a significant effect on attention and concentration among children.
Table 2: The systematic review table for the included studies

Click here to view

The high school children's age group between 14 and 17 years was discussed secondarily, with three studies out of 18 studies included for systematic reviews. Concludes that most of the studies are done on primary school children and adults between the ages of 17 and 35 years.

The group of researchers researched that yoga practices such as postures (asanas), breathing techniques (Pranayamas), and yogic games for 6–12 weeks improve attention among 3–5 years of children. They also proved that indices such as visual motor precision, the parent's rating scale of attention, decreased omission errors on some attention tasks and the behavior of inattention, and hyperactivity at the age of 3–5 years can also be affected substantially. The results showed that practices vary from Hatha Yoga, mindfulness training, and yogic practices such as Surya Namaskar, deep relaxation techniques (DRTs), raj yoga, and mind–body training, which are also known as super brain yoga.[13],[14] According to a study, high-frequency yoga breathing and yoga-based breath awareness combined with quiet sitting can significantly improve attention and reduce anxiety.[15] A pretest–posttest study on 91 sample sizes with an age group of 10–12 years showed that super brain yoga improves short-term memory and selective attention of the students.[16] In a cross-sectional, single-center study with 40 sample sizes, that 30 min of yoga package, which included chanting, postures, breathing exercises, and relaxation for 12 months, improved memory, reduced anxiety, increased self-confidence, and changed students' perceptions.[17]

The randomized control trial with a sample size of 113 with an age group of 7–14 years has justified that yoga practices such as Hatha Yoga, deep breathing, stretching, meditation, relaxation, breath awareness, body awareness, and rhythmic movements for 40–45 min for 8 weeks can significantly improve attention, memory, performance on task and lower impulsivity in children with cerebral palsy and reduce attention problems and inhibition problems in children suffering with ADHD.[18],[19],[20] In a study with a sample size of 60, a group of yogic physical activities such as Surya Namaskar, asanas, pranayama, and DRTs can significantly improve attention, concentration, and cardiovascular endurance after weeks of practice.[21] A study showed that 6–8 weeks of yoga practice such as traditional ashtanga vinyasa yoga, ujjayi, and raja yoga meditation significantly improved perceived stress, salivary cortisol, and improved perception and attention in the age group of 18–35 years.[22] A research on 100 samples showed that yoga for 12 weeks regularly for 30 min, 5 days a week significantly improved attention, concentration, and memory in healthy medical students.[23] In other research, 180 university students participated in a study where they were randomly assigned to mindfulness training (experimental groups), awareness exercises (active control group), or no training (passive control group). Two mindfulness-based interventions, one of which included yoga and the other of which did not, were used to teach mindfulness. In regards to the aspect of attention regulation, the study found that seven biweekly mindfulness training sessions did not reveal any different advantages from mindfulness training with or without yoga.[24] Through a research intervention, where 20 participants were given elective yoga lectures and philosophical instructions for 6 weeks, it was suggested that after the yoga course, depression, anxiety, stress, and other mental health problems were reduced with improved attention control.[25],[26] An experimental control study with a sample size of 60, it was revealed that an hour of raj yoga practice for 8 weeks can significantly improve the perception and attention of individuals aged 21–23 years.[27] The pre- and postexperimental control study showed that 25-min sessions of Hatha Yoga and meditation for 12 weeks can considerably improve attention and hyperactivity in high school students.[28] A randomized controlled trial on 802 samples showed that 1 h of yoga training or physical exercises for 2 months daily can improve executive functions, attention, and working memory in adolescent school children.[29] A research reported that asanas such as warrior pose, easy lotus pose, sun salutation, deep breathing exercises, meditative exercises, and mantra repetition can significantly improve the attention and information processing abilities in older adults.[30]

  Conclusion Top

The review suggests that yoga, yogic exercises, mindfulness, and other yogic techniques had significant improvements in attention among children. The study also revealed the coexistence of attention with memory development. The review also suggests that yoga can have a substantial effect on memory development and attention in all age groups. A few studies included in this review have also revealed that yoga helps in reducing anxiety and depressive behavior in a targeted population. This systematic review advocates the need for yoga intervention in school settings by assessing its efficacy in the management of psychological disorders in the targeted population. Hence, yoga and other techniques are indeed effective in increasing people's attention levels. Therefore, it needs to be the primary intervention strategy for future studies.

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

  References Top

Ashcraft M. Cognition. 4th ed. New York: Prentice Hall; 2005.  Back to cited text no. 1
Goldstein E. Sensation and perception. 7th ed. United States: Wadsworth. 2007.  Back to cited text no. 2
Lazar SW, Kerr CE, Wasserman RH, Gray JR, Greve DN, Treadway MT, et al. Meditation experience is associated with increased cortical thickness. Neuroreport 2005;16:1893.  Back to cited text no. 3
Linden W. Practicing of meditation by school children and their levels of field dependence-independence, test anxiety, and reading achievement. J Consult Clin Psychol 1973;41:139-43.  Back to cited text no. 4
Knudsen EI. Fundamental components of attention. Annu Rev Neurosci 2007;30:57-78.  Back to cited text no. 5
Sethi JK, Nagendra HR, Sham Ganpat T. Yoga improves attention and self-esteem in underprivileged girl student. J Educ Health Promot 2013;2:55.  Back to cited text no. 6
Pope HG Jr., Yurgelun-Todd D. The residual cognitive effects of heavy marijuana use in college students. JAMA 1996;275:521-7.  Back to cited text no. 7
Levin ED, Conners CK, Silva D, Hinton SC, Meck WH, March J, et al. Transdermal nicotine effects on attention. Psychopharmacology (Berl) 1998;140:135-41.  Back to cited text no. 8
Spencer TJ, Biederman J, Mick E. Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder: Diagnosis, lifespan, comorbidities, and neurobiology. J Pediatr Psychol 2007;32:631-42.  Back to cited text no. 9
Valentine ER, Sweet PL. Meditation and attention: A comparison of the effects of concentrative and mindfulness meditation on sustained attention. Ment Health Relig Cult 1999;2:59-70.  Back to cited text no. 10
Sahasi G. A replicated study on the effects of yoga on cognitive functions. Indian Psychol Rev 1984;27:33-5.  Back to cited text no. 11
Uthaman S, Uthaman S. Impact of Yoga and meditation on cognitive functions of students. J Soc Work Educ Pract 2017;2:53-7.  Back to cited text no. 12
Cohen SC, Harvey DJ, Shields RH, Shields GS, Rashedi RN, Tancredi DJ, et al. The effects of yoga on attention, impulsivity and hyperactivity in pre-school age children with ADHD symptoms. J Dev Behav Pediatr JDBP 2018;39:200.  Back to cited text no. 13
Jarraya S, Wagner M, Jarraya M, Engel FA. 12 weeks of kindergarten-based yoga practice increases visual attention, visual-motor precision and decreases behavior of inattention and hyperactivity in 5-year-old children. Front Psychol 2019;10:796.  Back to cited text no. 14
Telles S, Gupta RK, Gandharva K, Vishwakarma B, Kala N, Balkrishna A. Immediate effect of a yoga breathing practice on attention and anxiety in pre-teen children. Children (Basel) 2019;6:84.  Back to cited text no. 15
Jois SN, D'Souza L, Moulya R. Beneficial effects of superbrain yoga on short-term memory and selective attention of students. Indian J Tradit Knowl 2017;16:0972-5938.  Back to cited text no. 16
Nilsoge D, Bagade A, Tumbigeremutt V, Kulkarni P, Rao SB, Arpitha M, et al. Evaluation of attention and verbal memory in yoga practicing pre-adolescents: A cross-sectional study. J Restor Med 2016;5:3-13.  Back to cited text no. 17
Rezaei M, Salarpor Kamarzard T, Najafian Razavi M. The effects of neuro feedback, yoga interventions on memory and cognitive activity in children with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder: A randomized controlled trial. Ann Appl Sports Sci 2018;6:17-27.  Back to cited text no. 18
Mak C, Whittingham K, Cunnington R, Boyd RN. Effect of mindfulness yoga programme Mi yoga on attention, behaviour, and physical outcomes in cerebral palsy: A randomized controlled trial. Dev Med Child Neurol 2018;60:922-32.  Back to cited text no. 19
Chou CC, Huang CJ. Effects of an 8-week yoga program on sustained attention and discrimination function in children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. PeerJ 2017;5:e2883.  Back to cited text no. 20
Nagaraj GP, Manjunatha SK, Eshwara KA. Effect of yoga on attention concentration and cardio-vascular endurance of secondary school volleyball players. Int J Physiol Nutr Phys Educ 2019;4:96-7.  Back to cited text no. 21
Schmalzl L, Powers C, Zanesco AP, Yetz N, Groessl EJ, Saron CD. The effect of movement-focused and breath-focused yoga practice on stress parameters and sustained attention: A randomized controlled pilot study. Conscious Cogn 2018;65:109-25.  Back to cited text no. 22
Joice PP, Manik KA, Sudhir PK. Role of yoga in attention, concentration, and memory of medical students. Natl J Physiol Pharm pharmacol 2018;8:1526-8.  Back to cited text no. 23
Wimmer L, Bellingrath S, von Stockhausen L. Mindfulness training for improving attention regulation in university students: Is it effective? And do yoga and homework matter? Front Psychol 2020;11:719.  Back to cited text no. 24
Ravikumar NG. Role of yoga in Concentration, Attention, and Memory of B. Ed Student Teachers. Indian Yoga 2019;8:6.  Back to cited text no. 25
Amemiya R, Takahashi G, Rakwal R, Kahata M, Isono K, Sakairi Y. Effects of yoga in a physical education course on attention control and mental health among graduate students with high sensory processing sensitivity. Cogent Psychology 2020;7:1.  Back to cited text no. 26
Jesintha AR. An impact of raja yoga meditation on perception and attention among school girls. Journal of Information and Computational Science 2020;10:3.  Back to cited text no. 27
Saxena K, Verrico CD, Saxena J, Kurian S, Alexander S, Kahlon RS, et al. An evaluation of yoga and meditation to improve attention, hyperactivity, and stress in high-school students. J Altern Complement Med 2020;26:701-7.  Back to cited text no. 28
Vhavle SP, Rao RM, Manjunath NK. Comparison of yoga versus physical exercise on executive function, attention, and working memory in adolescent schoolchildren: A randomized controlled trial. Int J Yoga 2019;12:172-3.  Back to cited text no. 29
[PUBMED]  [Full text]  
Gothe NP, Kramer AF, McAuley E. Hatha yoga practice improves attention and processing speed in older adults: Results from an 8-week randomized control trial. J Altern Complement Med 2017;23:35-40.  Back to cited text no. 30


  [Figure 1]

  [Table 1], [Table 2]


Similar in PUBMED
   Search Pubmed for
   Search in Google Scholar for
 Related articles
Access Statistics
Email Alert *
Add to My List *
* Registration required (free)

  In this article
Materials and Me...
Article Figures
Article Tables

 Article Access Statistics
    PDF Downloaded165    
    Comments [Add]    

Recommend this journal