How Meditation, Mindfulness, Yoga and Yogic Breathing exercises improve productivity, performance and wellbeing: The Evidence
This page lists a comprehensive range of recent scientific studies (most involving operational businesses) which prove that Mindfulness, Meditation, Yoga and yogic breathing practices all significantly improve the following areas:
Performance/Productivity (33 entries)
Leadership (6 entries)
Stress Management (7 entries)
Absenteeism (2 entries)
Health/Wellbeing – Mental Health (7 entries)
Health/Wellbeing – Back issues (3 entries)
Health/Wellbeing – General (7 entries)
Please note that almost all of the entries listed demonstrate that Mindfulness/ Meditation/Yoga/yogic breathing practices have multiple benefits across the board in some or all of the above areas, not just the domain under which they are listed.
See the ROI evidence page for exciting evidence of how these practices are a proven investment for businesses, with case studies.
Performance/Productivity (includes decision-making, resilience, creativity and impacts on business relationships)
Evidence for Mindfulness: A Research Summary for the Corporate Sceptic (2016) by Theo Winter – Client Services Manager, writer, and researcher for TTI Success Insights Australia
An excellent business-oriented overview of what Mindfulness (and Meditation) is and some of the latest research that clearly demonstrates the overwhelmingly positive impact of incorporating Mindfulness training into the corporate workplace. Some of the research articles it includes are listed separately on this page.
‘The Acute Effects of Yoga on Executive Function’
Journal of Physical Activity & Health, 3rd February 2012
Researchers report that a single, 20-minute session of Hatha Yoga significantly improved participants’ speed and accuracy on tests of working memory and inhibitory control, two measures of brain function associated with the ability to maintain focus and take in, retain and use new information. Participants performed significantly better immediately after the yoga practice than after moderate to vigorous aerobic exercise for the same amount of time.
Building the Case for Mindfulness in the Workplace,
Jamie Bristow, Director of The Mindfulness Initiative and Secretariat to the Mindfulness All-Party Parliamentary Group, October 2016
A UK government appointed review of the scientific literature concludes that Mindfulness is fundamentally connected to many aspects of workplace functioning with improvement in three key areas: Wellbeing, Relationships and Performance.
Replete with evidence and UK business case studies.
A 2015 review of the scientific literature on workplace mindfulness training concluded that training was positively related to key aspects of performance at work, including job and task performance, rational decision-making and citizenship and safety performance:
Contemplating Mindfulness at Work: An Integrative Review. Journal of Management, 2015; 42 (1)
‘At Aetna, a C.E.O.’s Management by Mantra’
David Gelles, New York Times, 27th February 2015
At the American health insurer, Aetna, nearly 15,000 employees have participated in at least one yoga or meditation class “and those who have, report, on average a:
- 28% reduction in their stress levels,
- 20% improvement in sleep quality
- 19% reduction in pain.
- Employees also become more effective on the job, gaining an average of 62 minutes per day of productivity each, which Aetna estimates is worth $3,000 per employee per year.”
- Further to these benefits, in 2012 medical claims dropped by 7.3%, which amounted to a $9 million saving for the company.
See http://psycnet.apa.org/psycinfo/2012-04383-001/ for the study
A 2014 academic literature review by INSEAD Business School suggests that Mindfulness training has a number of positive effects on business decision-making.
Researchers found that doing just 15 minutes of mindfulness-based meditation such as concentrating on breathing per day can lead to more rational thinking in making business decisions.
‘Improving Decision-Making Through Mindfulness’
Why Mindfulness Works Wonders
John Hilton, L&D Professional, February 2016
Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF), a global law firm with around 5,000 employees, was the first company to launch a mindfulness program in the Australian legal industry. Approximately 200 employees have gone through the 6-week HSF mindfulness program in the last 14 months.
Some of the results from the 6-week program include a:
- 12% increase in employee focus
- 10% increase in employee performance
- 10% increase in employee efficiency
- 17% increase in employee work/life balance
- 11% increase in employee communication skills
‘The Mind Business’
David Gelles, Financial Times, August 2012
The multinational manufacturer, General Mills, has had over 500 employees attend their Mindful Leadership program, created by General Mills’ deputy general counsel, Janice Marturano. According to the company’s self-report data: “After one of Marturano’s seven-week courses:
- 83% of participants said they were ‘taking time each day to optimize my personal productivity’ – up from 23% before the course.
- 82% said they now make time to eliminate tasks with limited productivity value – up from 32% before the course.
- And among senior executives who took the course, 80% reported a positive change in their ability to make better decisions, while 89% said they became better listeners.”
‘There’s No Price Tag on a Clear Mind: Intel to Launch Mindfulness Program’
The Guardian, Kristine A. Wong, April 2014
Awake@Intel is a mindfulness program that Intel is making available to over 100,000 employees in 63 countries. To date, 1,500 employees have taken part, having completed 19 sessions. The results so far: “On average, participants responding to pre- and post- self-evaluation questionnaires report (on a 10-point scale):
- a 2-point increase in having new ideas and insights, mental clarity, creativity, the ability to focus, the quality of relationships at work and the level of engagement in meetings, projects and collaboration efforts.
- a 2-point decrease in experiencing stress and feeling overwhelmed
- a 3-point increase in overall happiness and wellbeing“
‘Teaching Meditation to Employees Could Have Big Benefits’ Chief Learning Officer media, 6th March 2018
Bob Shapiro (former CEO of Monsanto) says that meditation has improved his ability to listen and to think creatively – and there’s an increasing amount of scientific evidence to back this up. Dr. Richard Davidson of the University of Wisconsin at Madison has, among other experiments, used cranial electrodes and MRI scans to study Tibetan monks on loan from the Dalai Lama. His basic finding: The brain functioning of serious meditators is “profoundly different” from that of nonmeditators – in ways that suggest an elevated capacity to concentrate and to manage emotions. He calls meditation a “kind of mental training.”
‘Examining Workplace Mindfulness and Its Relations to Job Performance and Turnover Intention’
Dane and Drummel, Human Relations, January 2014
“In recent years, research on mindfulness has burgeoned across several lines of scholarship. Nevertheless, very little empirical research has investigated mindfulness from a workplace perspective… Testing these claims in a dynamic service industry context, we find support for a positive relationship between workplace mindfulness and job performance that holds even when accounting for all three work engagement dimensions.”
Managing stress at work can help employee well-being & productivity
April 26, 2018, American Heart Association
Amongst NHS employees who participated in a 2013 mindfulness course:
- 93% – 100% perceived that mindfulness had supported them in performing better at work
- 45% – 59% reported a great or significant increase in performance
- 100% agreed that the training had helped them function better when under pressure
- 93% agreed it helped them to focus on work better
A head for work & Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust (2013). Mindful.org Mindfulness at work case study. Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust.
Yoga Is Officially Sweeping the Workplace
5th January 2017
‘Mindfulness Can Literally Change Your Brain’
Congleton, Hölzel, and Lazar, Harvard Business Review, January 2015
“This year , a team of scientists from the University of British Columbia and the Chemnitz University of Technology were able to pool data from more than 20 studies to determine which areas of the brain are consistently affected [by mindfulness training]. They identified at least 8 different regions: Neuroscientists have also shown that practicing mindfulness affects brain areas related to perception, body awareness, pain tolerance, emotion regulation, introspection, complex thinking, and sense of self. While more research is needed to document these changes over time and to understand underlying mechanisms, the converging evidence is compelling.”
‘The Effects of Mindfulness Meditation Training on Multitasking in a High-Stress Information Environment’
Levy, Wobbrock, Kaszniak, and Ostergren, Human Relations, 2012
“Three groups each of 12-15 human resources personnel were tested: 1) those who underwent an eight-week training course on mindfulness-based meditation, 2) those who endured a wait period, were tested, and then underwent the same eight-week training, and 3) those who had eight weeks of training in body relaxation. We found that only those trained in meditation stayed on tasks longer and made fewer task switches, as well as reporting less negative emotion after task performance, as compared with the other two groups. In addition, both the meditation and the relaxation groups showed improved memory for the tasks they performed.”
Impact of yoga way of life on organisational performance
2010 study showing that Yoga has a significant positive impact on job satisfaction, goal orientation, affective organisational commitment and organisational citizenship behaviour.
Two 2007 studies demonstrating mindfulness meditation improving memory, reaction times and mental and physical stamina:
Tang Y.Y., Ma, Y., Wang, J., Fan, Y., Feng, S., Lu, Q., et al. (2007), ‘Short term meditation training improves attention and self regulation’, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (US), 104 (43), pp. 17152-6.
Ortner C. N. M., Kilner, S. J. & Zelazo, P D. (2007), ‘Mindfulness meditation and reduced emotional interference on a cognitive task’, Motivation & Emotion, 31, pp.271-83.
‘Mindfulness Training Improves Working Memory Capacity and GRE (Graduate Record Examination) Performance While Reducing Mind Wandering’
Psychological Science, March 2013
Mrazek, Franklin, Phillips, Baird, and Schooler
“In a randomized controlled investigation, we examined whether a two-week mindfulness-training course would decrease mind wandering and improve cognitive performance. Mindfulness training improved both GRE reading-comprehension scores and working memory capacity while simultaneously reducing the occurrence of distracting thoughts during completion of the GRE and the measure of working memory… Our results suggest that cultivating mindfulness is an effective and efficient technique for improving cognitive function, with wide-reaching consequences.”
In a study published in March 2013 in the journal Psychological Science, the researchers found that after a group of undergraduates went through a two-week intensive mindfulness training program, their mind-wandering decreased and their working memory capacity improved. They also performed better on a reading comprehension test.
and http://pss.sagepub.com/content/early/2013/03/27/0956797612459659.abstract for the study itself.
Creativity is not only vital for the invention of new products and services: it can be crucial to individual performance, problem solving and the development of more efficient processes and management techniques.
A stressed mind quashes creativity and therefore shuts down possibilities and competitive edge in this area.
Recent research into problem solving concluded that there is direct relationship between Mindfulness and creativity:
See Ostafin, B.D., Kassman, K.T. (2012) ‘Stepping out of history: Mindfulness improves insight problem-solving.’ Consciousness and Cognition, 21(2), 1031-1036.
In a 2012 study, scientists reported that “open monitoring” meditation (non-reactive observation of your thoughts over time; aka Mindfulness) promoted “divergent thinking”, a type of thinking that allows new idea generation.
See Colzato, L. S., Ozturk, A., & Hommel, B. (2012). Meditate to Create: The Impact of Focused-Attention and OpenMonitoring Training on Convergent and Divergent Thinking. Frontiers in Psychology, 3, 116.
Mindfulness reduces cognitive rigidity (the tendency to be blinded by experience). Instead it increases the capacity to respond in novel and adaptive ways to a particular problem. Mindfulness deliberately disrupts and erodes our habitual patterns of responding, leaving us receptive to new ideas and ways of thinking.
Again, see Colzato, L. S., Ozturk, A., & Hommel, B. (2012). Meditate to Create: The Impact of Focused-Attention and OpenMonitoring Training on Convergent and Divergent Thinking. Frontiers in Psychology, 3, 116.
18 Feet & Rising is an independent SME specialising in creative advertising. Founded just six years ago, it is already a Top 30 London agency. As new ideas are the cornerstone of the agency’s business success, in 2015, it became interested in the potential correlation between mindfulness, working memory capacity and creativity.
‘Working in conjunction with Liverpool Moore’s University, Michael Chaskalson and Dr. Peter Malinowski instigated a training programme for 35 employees, some of whom were allocated to a wait-list control group. Both underwent a series of pre and post-training cognitive tests and random positivity checks via email prompts. Training lasted eight weeks and was delivered in fortnightly half-day sessions. Daily practice was encouraged.
The researchers discovered significant increases in context-sensitive working memory capacity after training was completed. Participants reported greater focus and the ability to be more open minded – two key ingredients of creativity. These results confirmed the researcher’s’ hypotheses that mindfulness increases working memory capacity and by proxy that employees would feel an uplift in both their creativity (better ideas) and their productivity (more ideas). Data also demonstrated that mindfulness training increased employee’s overall positivity.
While the sample size was too small to be statistically significant, the data suggests a promising impact of mindfulness on creativity. During and following training, employees reported that they felt less stressed, happier, and able to have fresh ideas more quickly and easily. They also felt more focussed in developing and delivering new ideas. The agency continues to practice daily in what it calls ‘Club Med’ at 5pm every day.’
Extract from ‘Building the Case for Mindfulness in the Workplace’, Jamie Bristow, Director of The Mindfulness Initiative and Secretariat to the Mindfulness All-Party Parliamentary Group, October 2016, p. 16 (emphasis added).
The effect of collective Mindfulness as a social practice within and across teams:
When individuals and teams routinely engage mindfully with each other, Mindfulness becomes a social norm and mindful practices become processes and routines that turn entire workplaces into mindful organisations, which then perform more reliably than other comparable workplaces:
Weick, K.E., Sutcliffe, K.M. & Obstfeld, D. (1999). Organizing for high reliability: Processes of collective mindfulness. In Staw B. M. & Cummings, L. eds. Research in organisational Behavior. Greenwich, CT: JAI Press, 81–123.
Vogus, T.J. & Sutcliffe, K.M. (2012). Organisational mindfulness and mindful organizing: A reconciliation and path forward. Academy of Management Learning and Education, 11(4), 722–735.
Benefits of collective Mindfulness for quality and high-reliability organisations (e.g., nuclear power plants, nuclear aircraft carriers, air traffic control and intensive care units, where safety is critical):
Ndubisi, N. O. (2012). Mindfulness, quality and reliability in small and large firms. International Journal of Quality & Reliability Management, 29(6), 600 – 606.
Vogus T.J., Welbourne T.M. (2003). Structuring for high reliability: HR practices and mindful processes in reliability-seeking organisations. Journal of organisational Behavior, 24, 877-903.
One occupation known for burnout is physicians. Studies show that anywhere from a third to half of them suffer from it. But a 2009 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that doctors taking part in mindfulness communication training were less burned out. Even more dramatic was the fact that many of the improvements continued even after the year-long study concluded.
A 2016 study found that amongst employees in an analytics company, after a 6-week mindfulness course there was a significant increase in resilience compared to the control group.
Tobias, J. (2016). Mindfulness Training at Aimia: Research Study Report
Of relevance to SME’s:
‘Yoga in the office? Firms should help us stay well, says public health chief’
The Guardian, 22 July 2017
In an interview with the Observer, Duncan Selbie, Chief Executive of Public Health England, made clear that Britain’s 5.5 million small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) could do much more to tackle the £29bn annual bill for sickness absence while improving productivity and increasing profits at the same time.
A 2016 year-long study led by Ashridge Business School examined whether an 8-week mindfulness programme developed using MBSR and MBCT and practice had an impact on 57 senior executives‘ (from different sectors) capacities for resilience, collaboration and leading in complexity.
12 weeks after the programme, self-report measures showed that:
- 93% felt that the programme had developed their resilience
- 85% to deal with complexity
- 85% felt that the programme had developed their collaboration skills
Other areas in which participants felt impact was decreased stress, calmness and emotional regulation.
Reitz, M., Chaskalson, M., Olivier, S., & Waller, L. (2016). ‘The Mindful Leader. Developing the capacity for resilience and collaboration in complex times through mindfulness practice’ Ashridge Executive Education. Hult.
A 2015 study of UK managers found that mindfulness awareness practice was associated with a significant increase in mindfulness, a decrease in stress and a positive change in leadership effectiveness
Wasylkiw, L., Holton, J., Azar, R., & Cook, W. (2015). The impact of mindfulness on leadership effectiveness in a health care setting: A pilot study. Journal of Health Organization and Management, 29(7), 893-911.
A 2012 study measured the influence of leaders’ mindfulness on employee wellbeing and performance. 96 supervisors and their subordinates participated on a voluntary basis as part of a larger study.
The report concluded that supervisor mindfulness reduced employee emotional exhaustion and increased employee work-life balance. It improved employee performance and staff engagement.
Leader mindfulness was positively related to overall job performance, as well as in-role performance and organisational citizenship behaviours. The results suggest a potentially important role of leading mindfully in organisations.
2016 UK study showing that managers who completed regular mindfulness meditation (45 minutes per week for 8 weeks) showed a significant decrease in trait anxiety and stress and a significant increase in promotional regulatory focus:
Brendel, W., Hankerson, S., Byun, S., & Cunningham, B. (2016). ‘Cultivating leadership Dharma: Measuring the impact of regular mindfulness practice on creativity, resilience, tolerance for ambiguity, anxiety and stress’.
Journal of Management Development, 35(8), 1056-1078.
Google, meditation and resilience
One company that “gets it,” and has since its inception, is Google. One of the most popular classes it offers employees is known as S.I.Y., short for “Search Inside Yourself.” It was started by Chade-Meng Tan, an engineer, Google employee number 107, and the author of Search Inside Yourself: The Unexpected Path to Achieving Success, Happiness (and World Peace). The Mindfulness-based course has three parts: attention training, self-knowledge, and building useful mental habits.
Richard Fernandez, a director of executive development who took Tan’s course, told the New York Times he sees a significant difference in his work behavior since taking the class. “I’m definitely much more resilient as a leader,” he says. “I listen more carefully and with less reactivity in high-stakes meetings. I work with a lot of senior executives who can be very demanding, but that doesn’t faze me anymore. It’s almost an emotional and mental bank account. I’ve now got much more of a buffer there.”
Mindfulness for concentration, focus and perspective
Guy Blaskey, Founder and Director of luxury dog food brand Pooch and Mutt, has found the process [of learning and practicing Mindfulness] “amazingly useful” with “the ability to concentrate on one thing, and not get distracted. There’s no point in getting stressed about things you can’t control, they key is learning to understand that.” In terms of his business, he attributes his company’s extended growth to his mindfulness approach to running his business.
“It’s focusing, and realising what’s important in your business, and not getting distracted by the things that aren’t important,” he says.
‘Examining the Protective Effects of Mindfulness Training on Working Memory Capacity and Affective Experience’ (in a military unit)
Jha and Stanley, Emotion, 2010
The effects of mindfulness training on working memory capacity in high stress environments were investigated in relation to a military unit (n = 31). Two control groups were included: one military (n = 17) and one civilian (n = 12).
Within the military unit, working memory increased in proportion to the amount of mindfulness practice, while the civilian control group remained stable and the military control group showed decreased capacity. The authors concluded that “working memory capacity may be bolstered by mindfulness training” and the training may also “protect against functional impairments associated with high-stress contexts.” The study was the first to empirically examine the protective effects of mindfulness training within the context of pre-deployment military.
Studies have shown that Yoga can decrease the secretion of cortisol, the primary stress hormone:
See https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16740317 (2006)
Studies worldwide have found that meditation reduces the key indicators of chronic stress, including hypertension (high blood pressure):
Low, C. A., Stanton, A. L. & Bower, J. E. (2008) ‘Effects of acceptance-oriented versus evaluative emotional processing on heart rate recovery and habituation’, Emotion, 8, pp. 419-24.
Deep breathing is a simple technique for stress reduction that can be used anywhere.
A 2017 study of 28 middle-aged women found a nearly 50% reduction in cortisol with habitual deep breathing training.
‘The role of deep breathing on stress’
‘Harvard yoga scientists find proof of meditation benefit’
Makiko Kitamura, Harvard News & Research, 21st November 2013
The 2013 study below reports results from a randomized controlled pilot trial of a modified Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction course (mMBSR) adapted specifically for school teachers.
Results suggest that the course may be a promising intervention, with participants showing significant reductions in psychological symptoms and burnout, improvements in observer-rated classroom organization and performance on a computer task of affective attentional bias, and increases in self-compassion.
In contrast, control group participants showed declines in cortisol functioning over time and marginally significant increases in burnout.
Flook, L., Goldberg, S. B., Pinger, L., Bonus, K., & Davidson, R. J. (2013). ‘Mindfulness for Teachers: A Pilot Study to Assess Effects on Stress, Burnout, and Teaching Efficacy’ Mind, Brain and Education, 7, 182–195. doi: 10.1111/mbe.12026. PMCID: PMC3855679
Lower Burnout Rates
A 2015 study published in ‘Workplace Health and Safety’ found that nurses who performed a weekly yoga session for eight weeks experienced enormous reductions in warning signs for burnout.
Among the benefits are higher levels of self-care, less emotional exhaustion and a reduced tendency toward depersonalization in their contact with patients.
Specific business outcomes such as decreased absenteeism and turnover and better employee and client relationships and increased job satisfaction are associated with mindfulness:
Schaufenbuel, K. (2014). Bringing Mindfulness to the Workplace. UNC Executive Development.
Halliwell (2010) reported that amongst Transport for London employees who participated in a six-week stress reduction workshop, which combined mindfulness, psychoeducation and CBT, there was a 71% decrease in the number of sick days for stress, anxiety and depression over the subsequent three years
Health/Wellbeing – Mental Health
Just 10 Minutes of Meditation Boosts Mood and Focus for People with Anxiety
3rd May 2017
For the report this article discusses, ‘Mindfulness and mind wandering: The protective effects of brief meditation in anxious individuals’
see ‘Consciousness & Cognition’, Volume 51, May 2017, pages 157-165.
In a 2013 study investigating the effect of doing pranayama [yogic breath awareness and enhancement techniques] on test anxiety and test performance among 107 MA university students, after practicing pranayama, only 33% of the participants of the experimental group experienced high test anxiety, while this percentage was nearly twice in the control group (66.7%).
See http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3573544/ for the study.
Participation in a two-month yoga class can lead to significant reduction in perceived levels of anxiety in women who suffer from anxiety disorders:
‘Effects of yoga on depression and anxiety of women’ (2009)
A 2014 study followed 64 women with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which is characterized by severe anxiety and fear following exposure to a traumatic event.
After 10 weeks, the women who practiced Yoga once weekly had fewer symptoms of PTSD. In fact, 52% of participants no longer met the criteria for PTSD at all.
‘Yoga as an adjunctive treatment for posttraumatic stress disorder: a randomized controlled trial’
(2013) ‘PTSD Symptom Reduction With Mindfulness-Based Stretching and Deep Breathing Exercise: Randomized Controlled Clinical Trial of Efficacy’
A 2007 study of 131 people showed that 10 weeks of Yoga helped reduce stress and anxiety. It also helped improve quality of life and mental health:
‘A randomised comparative trial of yoga and relaxation to reduce stress and anxiety’
A 2005 study found that women suffering from mental distress participating in a 3-month Iyengar yoga class showed significant improvements on measures of stress and psychological outcomes:
‘Rapid stress reduction and anxiolysis among distressed women as a consequence of a three-month intensive yoga program’
Health/Wellbeing – Back issues
Studies of the effects of Yoga on back pain by the US National Center for Complementary & Integrative Health (NCCIH):
A 2009 NCCIH-funded study of 90 people with chronic low-back pain found that participants who practiced Iyengar yoga had significantly less disability, pain, and depression after 6 months.
See Williams K, Abildso C, Steinberg L, et al. Evaluation of the effectiveness and efficacy of Iyengar yoga therapy on chronic low back pain. Spine. 2009;34(19):2066–2076.
In a 2011 study, also funded by NCCIH, researchers compared yoga with conventional stretching exercises or a self-care book in 228 adults with chronic low-back pain. The results showed that both yoga and stretching were more effective than a self-care book for improving function and reducing symptoms due to chronic low-back pain.
See Sherman KJ, Cherkin DC, Wellman RD, et al. A randomized trial comparing yoga, stretching, and a self-care book for chronic low back pain. Archives of Internal Medicine. 2011;171(22):2019–2026.
Conclusions from another 2011 study of 313 adults with chronic or recurring low-back pain suggested that 12 weekly yoga classes resulted in better function than usual medical care.
See Tilbrook HE, Cox H, Hewitt CE, et al. Yoga for chronic low back pain: a randomized trial. Annals of Internal Medicine. 2011;155(9):569–578.
Health/Wellbeing – General
The dramatic effects of meditation on health:
A landmark National Institute of Health long term study (published 28/12/2004) showed a 23% decrease in mortality, a 30 % decrease in death due to cardiovascular problems and a big decrease in cancer mortality due to Meditation practice.
“This effect is equivalent to discovering an entirely new class of drugs (but without the inevitable side effects),” they write.
See Schneider, R. H. Et al. (2005), ‘Long-Term Effects of Stress Reduction on Mortality in Persons >55 Years of Age with Systemic Hypertension’, American Journal of Cardiology, 95 (9), pp. 1060-64.
Study showing that meditation bolsters the immune system and thus helps to fight off colds, flu and other diseases:
Davidson, R. J., Kabat-Zinn, J., Schumacher, J., Rosenkranz, M., Muller, D., Santorelli, S. F., Urbanowski, F., Harrington, A., Bonus, K & Sheridan, J. F. (2003) ‘Alterations in brain and immune function produced by mindfulness meditation’, Psychosomatic Medicine, 65, pp. 567-70.
BBC News article & video:
‘Scans show mindfulness meditation brain boost’
4th January 2012
Lazar, S. W., Kerr, C., Wasserman, R. H., Gray, J. R., Greve, D., Treadway, M. T., McGarvey, M., Quinn, B. T., Dusek, J. A., Benson, H., Rauch, S. L., Moore, C. I., & Fischl, B. (2005) ‘Meditation experience is associated with increased cortical thickness’ , Neuroreport, 16, pp. 1893-7.
The NHS recognises and recommends Yoga for health benefits:
In a 2000 study, 287 college students took a 15-week class where they were taught various yoga poses and breathing exercises. At the end of the study, they had a significant increase in vital capacity.
Vital capacity is a measure of the maximum amount of air that can be expelled from the lungs. It is especially important for those with lung disease, heart problems and asthma.
Hatha yoga: improved vital capacity of college students
Alternative Therapies in Health & Medicine, 2000 Nov;6(6):55-63.
Another study in 2009 found that practicing yogic breathing improved symptoms and lung function in patients with mild-to-moderate asthma:
(The effect of various breathing exercises (pranayama) in patients with bronchial asthma of mild to moderate severity)