1 Kendriya Vidyalaya (KV) IIT Powai, Indian Institute of Technology Bombay, Powai, Mumbai, Maharashtra, India
2 Shailesh J. Mehta School of Management, Indian Institute of Technology Bombay, Powai, Mumbai, Maharashtra, India
Creative Commons Non Commercial CC BY-NC: This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 License (http://www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/) which permits non-Commercial use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed.
Cognitive flexibility plays a crucial role in an individual’s ability to adapt to the ever-changing situations and is associated with effective problem-solving and decision-making. Given the wide range of the impact of Yoga on physiological and psychological aspects of health, the purpose of the study was to examine the impact of Yoga-based practices (YBP) on cognitive flexibility among school students. The performance in digit letter substitution test (DLST) was assessed with 80 school students of fifth-grade and 78 students of ninth-grade immediately before and after participating in a single Yoga class and a control session of equal duration. The intervention comprised of YBP focusing on pranayama and relaxation meditation. Data were analysed using mixed-method ANOVA by comparing effect sizes between the two conditions supplemented by a within-group analysis. Most outcome measures exhibited a pattern of worsening in the control group over time, whereas changes in the Yoga group over time were either consistent or showed slight improvements. The findings suggest, at a preliminary level, that YBP are effective in improving students’ cognitive flexibility as well as their academic school readiness. This information is important to consider as it aims at developing students’ executive functions, thereby impacting their future.
Yoga, cognitive flexibility, executive function, school students, cognitive performance, learning
Ahmed, G. M., & Mohamed, S. (2011). Effect of regular aerobic exercises on behavioral, cognitive and psychological response in patients with attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder. Life Sciences-Journal, 8(2), 366–371.
Avery, T., Blasey, C., Rosen, C., & Bayley, P. (2018). Psychological flexibility and set-shifting among veterans participating in a Yoga program: A pilot study. Military Medicine, 183(11–12), 359–363.
Badavi, E., & Zinaali, A. (2019). Effectiveness of Yoga training on women’s sense of cohesion, self-resilience, and cognitive flexibility. Stud Sport Psychol, 8(28), 69–82.
Benedek, M., Könen, T., & Neubauer, A. C. (2012). Associative abilities underlying creativity. Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts, 6(3), 273.
Benson, H., Wilcher, M., Greenberg, B., Huggins, E., Ennis, M., Zuttermeister, P. C., Myers, P., & Friedman, R. (2000). Academic performance among middle-school students after exposure to a relaxation response curriculum. Journal of Research and Development in Education, 33(3), 156–165.
Bergman Nutley, S. (2011). Development and training of higher order cognitive functions and their interrelations. Inst för neurovetenskap/Dept of Neuroscience.
Best, J. R., & Miller, P. H. (2010). A developmental perspective on executive function. Child Development, 81(6), 1641–1660.
Bhavanani, A. B., & Udupa, K. (2003). Acute effect of Mukh bhastrika (a yogic bellows type breathing) on reaction time. Indian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology, 47(3), 297–300.
Bilgin, M. (2009). Developing a cognitive flexibility scale: Validity and reliability studies. Social Behavior and Personality: An International Journal, 37(3), 343–353.
Bull, R., & Scerif, G. (2001). Executive functioning as a predictor of children’s mathematics ability: Inhibition, switching, and working memory. Developmental Neuropsychology, 19(3), 273–293.
Cañas, J., Fajardo, I., & Salmeron, L. (2006). Cognitive flexibility. International Encyclopedia of Ergonomics and Human Factors, 1, 297–301.
Cañas, J., Quesada, J., Antolí, A., & Fajardo, I. (2003). Cognitive flexibility and adaptability to environmental changes in dynamic complex problem-solving tasks. Ergonomics, 46(5), 482–501.
Cepeda, N. J., Kramer, A. F., & Gonzalez de Sather, J. (2001). Changes in executive control across the life span: Examination of task-switching performance. Developmental psychology, 37(5), 715.
Chaya, M. S., Nagendra, H., Selvam, S., Kurpad, A., & Srinivasan, K. (2012). Effect of Yoga on cognitive abilities in schoolchildren from a socioeconomically disadvantaged background: A randomized controlled study. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 18(12), 1161–1167.
Chong, C. S., Tsunaka, M., Tsang, H. W., Chan, E. P., & Cheung, W. M. (2011). Effects of Yoga on stress management in healthy adults: A systematic review. Alternative Therapies in Health & Medicine, 17(1).
Chung, S. H., Su, Y. F., & Su, S. W. (2012). The impact of cognitive flexibility on resistance to organizational change. Social Behavior and Personality: An International Journal, 40(5), 735–745.
Cope, S. (1999). Yoga and the quest for the true self. Bantam.
Corner, P. D. (2009). Workplace spirituality and business ethics: Insights from an eastern spiritual tradition. Journal of Business Ethics, 85(3), 377–389.
Davidson, M. C., Amso, D., Anderson, L. C., & Diamond, A. (2006). Development of cognitive control and executive functions from 4 to 13 years: Evidence from manipulations of memory, inhibition, and task switching. Neuropsychologia, 44(11), 2037–2078.
Deák, G. O. (2003). The development of cognitive flexibility and language abilities. Advances in Child Development and Behavior, 31, 271–327.
Derry, S. J., & Murphy, D. A. (1986). Designing systems that train learning ability: From theory to practice. Review of Educational Research, 56(1), 1–39.
Eggleston, B. (2015). The benefits of Yoga for children in schools. International Journal of Health, Wellness & Society, 5(3), 1–7.
Elst, W. Van der., Boxtel, M. P. Van., Breukelen, G. J. Van., & Jolles, J. (2006). The letter digit substitution test: Normative data for 1,858 healthy participants aged 24–81 from the Maastricht Aging Study (MAAS): Influence of age, education, and sex. Journal of Clinical and Experimental Neuropsychology, 28(6), 998–1009.
Felver, J. C., Butzer, B., Olson, K. J., Smith, I. M., & Khalsa, S. B. S. (2015). Yoga in public school improves adolescent mood and affect. Contemporary School Psychology, 19(3), 184–192.
Feuerstein, G. (2011). The encyclopedia of Yoga and tantra. Shambhala.
Feuerstein, G. (2013). The psychology of Yoga. Shambhala.
Franz, C. E., O’Brien, R. C., Hauger, R. L., Mendoza, S. P., Panizzon, M. S., Prom-Wormley, E., Eaves, L. J., Jacobson, K., Lyons, M. J., Lupien, S., Hellhammer, D., Xian, H., & Kremen, W. S. (2011). Cross-sectional and 35-year longitudinal assessment of salivary cortisol and cognitive functioning: The Vietnam Era twin study of aging. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 36(7), 1040–1052.
Gard, T., Noggle, J. J., Park, C. L., Vago, D. R., & Wilson, A. (2014). Potential self-regulatory mechanisms of Yoga for psychological health. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 8, 770.
Gilbert, S. J., & Burgess, P. W. (2008). Executive function. Current Biology, 18(3), R110–R114.
Gilhooly, K. J., Fioratou, E., Anthony, S. H., & Wynn, V. (2007). Divergent thinking: Strategies and executive involvement in generating novel uses for familiar objects. British Journal of Psychology, 98(4), 611–625.
Gothe, N., Pontifex, M. B., Hillman, C., & McAuley, E. (2013). The acute effects of Yoga on executive function. Journal of Physical Activity and Health, 10(4), 488–495.
Gray, J. R., Braver, T. S., & Raichle, M. E. (2002). Integration of emotion and cognition in the lateral prefrontal cortex. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 99(6), 4115–4120.
Guilford, J. P. (1962). Factors that aid and hinder creativity. Teachers College Record, 63, 380–392.
Gupta, A., Sinha, S., Pribesh, S., & Maira, S. (2014). A fresh breath into student achievement: Pranayama and educational outcomes. International Journal of Humanities and Social Science Invention, 3(10), 38–46.
Hedges, D. W., & Woon, F. L. (2011). Early-life stress and cognitive outcome. Psychopharmacology, 214(1), 121–130.
Herman, J. P., McKlveen, J. M., Ghosal, S., Kopp, B., Wulsin, A., Makinson, R., Scheimann, J., & Myers, B. (2011). Regulation of the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenocortical stress response. Comprehensive Physiology, 6(2), 603–621.
Holmes, J., Gathercole, S. E., & Dunning, D. L. (2009). Adaptive training leads to sustained enhancement of poor working memory in children. Developmental Science, 12(4), F9–F15.
Hoof, J. J. M. Van., Jogems-Kosterman, B. J. M., Sabbe, B. G., Zitman, F. G., & Hulstijn, W. (1998). Differentiation of cognitive and motor slowing in the Digit Symbol Test (DST): Differences between depression and schizophrenia. Journal of Psychiatric Research, 32(2), 99–103.
Huizinga, M., & Van der Molen, M. W. (2007). Age-group differences in set-switching and set-maintenance on the Wisconsin Card Sorting Task. Developmental Neuropsychology, 31(2), 193–215.
Innes, K. E., Bourguignon, C., & Taylor, A. G. (2005). Risk indices associated with the insulin resistance syndrome, cardiovascular disease, and possible protection with Yoga: A systematic review. The Journal of the American Board of Family Practice, 18(6), 491–519.
Ionescu, T. (2012). Exploring the nature of cognitive flexibility. New ideas in psychology, 30(2), 190–200.
Jacobson, L. A., Williford, A. P., & Pianta, R. C. (2011). The role of executive function in children’s competent adjustment to middle school. Child Neuropsychology, 17(3), 255–280.
Jordan, P. L., & Morton, J. B. (2008). Flankers facilitate 3-year-olds’ performance in a card-sorting task. Developmental Psychology, 44(1), 265.
Kamijo, K., Pontifex, M. B., O’Leary, K. C., Scudder, M. R., Wu, C. T., Castelli, D. M., & Hillman, C. H. (2011). The effects of an afterschool physical activity program on working memory in preadolescent children. Developmental Science, 14(5), 1046–1058.
Karbach, J., & Kray, J. (2009). How useful is executive control training? Age differences in near and far transfer of task-switching training. Developmental Science, 12(6), 978–990.
Khalsa, S. B. S., Hickey-Schultz, L., Cohen, D., Steiner, N., & Cope, S. (2012). Evaluation of the mental health benefits of Yoga in a secondary school: A preliminary randomized controlled trial. The Journal of Behavioral Health Services & Research, 39(1), 80–90.
Kirkwood, G., Rampes, H., Tuffrey, V., Richardson, J., & Pilkington, K. (2005). Yoga for anxiety: A systematic review of the research evidence. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 39(12), 884–891.
Kray, J., Eber, J., & Karbach, J. (2008). Verbal self-instructions in task switching: A compensatory tool for action-control deficits in childhood and old age? Developmental Science, 11(2), 223–236.
Krumm, G., Filippetti, V. A., & Gutierrez, M. (2018). The contribution of executive functions to creativity in children: What is the role of crystallized and fluid intelligence? Thinking Skills and Creativity, 29, 185–195.
Lakes, K. D., & Hoyt, W. T. (2004). Promoting self-regulation through school-based martial arts training. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 25(3), 283–302.
Laureiro-Martínez, D., & Brusoni, S. (2018). Cognitive flexibility and adaptive decision-making: Evidence from a laboratory study of expert decision makers. Strategic Management Journal, 39(4), 1031–1058.
Lezak, M. D. (1995). Neuropsychological assessment (3rd ed.). Oxford University Press
Lin, W. L., Tsai, P. H., Lin, H. Y., & Chen, H. C. (2014). How does emotion influence different creative performances? The mediating role of cognitive flexibility. Cognition & emotion, 28(5), 834–844.
Magalhães, S., Carneiro, L., Limpo, T., & Filipe, M. (2020). Executive functions predict literacy and mathematics achievements: The unique contribution of cognitive flexibility in grades 2, 4, and 6. Child Neuropsychology, 26(7), 934–952.
Manjunath, N. K., & Telles, S. (2001). Improved performance in the Tower of London test following Yoga. Indian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology, 45(3), 351–354.
Manjunath, N. K., & Telles, S. (2004). Spatial and verbal memory test scores following Yoga and fine arts camps for school children. Indian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology, 48(3), 353–356.
Martin, M. M., & Anderson, C. M. (1998). The cognitive flexibility scale: Three validity studies. Communication Reports, 11(1), 1–9.
Martin, M. M., Anderson, C. M., & Thweatt, K. S. (1998). Aggressive communication traits and their relationships with the Cognitive Flexibility Scale and the Communication Flexibility Scale. Journal of Social Behavior and Personality, 13(3), 531.
Meiron, O., & Lavidor, M. (2013). Unilateral prefrontal direct current stimulation effects are modulated by working memory load and gender. Brain Stimulation, 6(3), 440–447.
Monsell, S. (1996). Control of mental processes. In V. Bruce (Ed.), Unsolved mysteries of the mind: Tutorial essays in cognition (pp. 93–148). Erlbaum.
Monsell, S. (2003). Task switching. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 7(3), 134–140.
Moore, B. A. (2013). Propensity for experiencing flow: The roles of cognitive flexibility and mindfulness. The Humanistic Psychologist, 41(4), 319.
Myers, S. A., Bogdan, L. M., Eidsness, M. A., Johnson, A. N., Schoo, M. E., Smith, N. A., Thompson, M. R., & Zackery, B. A. (2009). Taking a trait approach to understanding college students’ perceptions of group work. College Student Journal, 43(3), 822–832.
Natu, M. V., & Agarwal, A. K. (1995). Digit letter substitution test (DLST) as an alternative to digit symbol substitution test (DSST). Human Psychopharmacology: Clinical and Experimental, 10(4), 339–343.
Nejad, S. F., Mojtabaie, M., & Mirhashemi, M. (2019). Comparison of the effectiveness of Yoga training with emotion regulation training on students’ working memory and cognitive flexibility. Iranian Journal of Learning and Memory, 2(7), 33–41.
Oken, B. S., Zajdel, D., Kishiyama, S., Flegal, K., Dehen, C., Haas, M., Kraemer, D. F., Lawrence, J., & Leyva, J. (2006). Randomized, controlled, six-month trial of Yoga in healthy seniors: effects on cognition and quality of life. Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, 12(1), 40.
Önen, A. S., & Koçak, C. (2015). The effect of cognitive flexibility on higher school students’ study strategies. Procedia-Social and Behavioral Sciences, 191, 2346–2350.
Pan, X., & Yu, H. (2018). Different effects of cognitive shifting and intelligence on creativity. The Journal of Creative Behavior, 52(3), 212–225.
Prakash, R., Dubey, I., Abhishek, P., Gupta, S. K., Rastogi, P., & Siddiqui, S. V. (2010). Long-term Vihangam Yoga meditation and scores on tests of attention. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 110(Suppl. 3), 1139–1148.
Pramanik, T., Pudasaini, B., & Prajapati, R. (2010). Immediate effect of a slow pace breathing exercise Bhramari pranayama on blood pressure and heart rate. Nepal Medical College Journal, 12(3), 154–157.
Purohit, S. P., & Pradhan, B. (2017). Effect of Yoga program on executive functions of adolescents dwelling in an orphan home: A randomized controlled study. Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine, 7(1), 99–105.
Rangan, R., Nagendra, H. R., & Bhat, G. R. (2008). Planning ability improves in a yogic education system compared to a modern. International Journal of Yoga, 1(2), 60.
Reder, L. M., & Schunn, C. D. (1999). Bringing together the psychometric and strategy worlds: Predicting adaptivity in a dynamic task. In D. Gopher & A. Koriat (Eds), Attention and performance XVII: Cognitive regulation of performance: Interaction of theory and application (pp. 315–342). The MIT Press.
Reiter-Palmon, R. (2003). Predicting leadership activities: The role of flexibility. Individual Differences Research, 1(2), 124.
Ritter, S. M., Damian, R. I., Simonton, D. K., Baaren, R. B. Van., Strick, M., Derks, J., & Dijksterhuis, A. (2012). Diversifying experiences enhance cognitive flexibility. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 48(4), 961–964.
Romine, C. B., & Reynolds, C. R. (2005). A model of the development of frontal lobe functioning: Findings from a meta-analysis. Applied Neuropsychology, 12(4), 190–201.
Rosaen, C., & Benn, R. (2006). The experience of transcendental meditation in middle school students: A qualitative report. Explore, 2(5), 422–425.
Ross, A., & Thomas, S. (2010). The health benefits of Yoga and exercise: A review of comparison studies. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 16(1), 3–12.
Saoji, A. A., Raghavendra, B. R., & Manjunath, N. K. (2019). Effects of yogic breath regulation: A narrative review of scientific evidence. Journal of Ayurveda and Integrative Medicine, 10(1), 50–58.
Sapolsky, R. M. (1992). Stress, the aging brain, and the mechanisms of neuron death. The MIT Press.
Scott, W. A. (1962). Cognitive complexity and cognitive flexibility. Sociometry, 25(4), 405–414.
Shaul, S., & Schwartz, M. (2014). The role of the executive functions in school readiness among preschool-age children. Reading and Writing, 27(4), 749–768.
Sovik, R. (2000). The science of breathing: The yogic view. Progress in Brain Research, 122, 491–505.
Spiro, R. J., & Jehng, J. C. (1990). Cognitive flexibility and hypertext: Theory and technology for the nonlinear and multidimensional traversal of complex subject matter. Cognition, education, and multimedia: Exploring Ideas in High Technology, 205, 163–205.
St Clair-Thompson, H. L., & Gathercole, S. E. (2006). Executive functions and achievements in school: Shifting, updating, inhibition, and working memory. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 59(4), 745–759.
Sternberg, R. J., & Lubart, T. I. (1996). Investing in creativity. American Psychologist, 51(7), 677.
Straten, A. Van der., Huyser, C., Wolters, L., Denys, D., & Wingen, G. Van. (2018). Long-term effects of cognitive behavioral therapy on planning and prefrontal cortex function in pediatric obsessive-compulsive disorder. Biological Psychiatry: Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuroimaging, 3(4), 320–328.
Telles, S., Raghuraj, P., Arankalle, D., & Naveen, K. V. (2008). Immediate effect of high-frequency Yoga breathing on attention. Indian Journal of Medical Sciences, 62(1), 20–22.
Timarová, S., & Salaets, H. (2011). Learning styles, motivation and cognitive flexibility in interpreter training: Self-selection and aptitude. Interpreting, 13(1), 31–52.
Toraman, Ç., Özdemir, H. F., Kosan, A. M. A., & Orakci, S. (2020). Relationships between cognitive flexibility, perceived quality of faculty life, learning approaches, and academic achievement. International Journal of Instruction, 13(1), 85–100.
Uebelacker, L. A., Epstein-Lubow, G., Gaudiano, B. A., Tremont, G., Battle, C. L., & Miller, I. W. (2010). Hatha Yoga for depression: Critical review of the evidence for efficacy, plausible mechanisms of action, and directions for future research. Journal of Psychiatric Practice®, 16(1), 22–33.
Wass, S. V. (2015). Applying cognitive training to target executive functions during early development. Child Neuropsychology, 21(2), 150–166.
Wechsler, D. (1955). Manual for the Wechsler adult intelligence scale. Psychological Corp.
Zinke, K., Einert, M., Pfennig, L., & Kliegel, M. (2012). Plasticity of executive control through task switching training in adolescents. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 6, 41.
Zou, Y., Li, P., Hofmann, S. G., & Liu, X. (2020). The mediating role of non-reactivity to mindfulness training and cognitive flexibility: A randomized controlled trial. Frontiers in Psychology, 11, 1053.