The Benefits of Yoga for Mental Health and Well-Being
While the physical health benefits of yoga are widely touted (benefits like increased flexibility, better balance, and easier weight loss) the mental health benefits of yoga can not be understated.
Yoga can work wonders for the mind, spirit, and soul. By gently yoking the body and mind, yoga can become a treasured spiritual practice as well as a way to stretch the muscles and ligaments. But what, exactly, can yoga do for your mental health, and why does it work?
Dive into the answers with us, as we explore the benefits of yoga for mental health and well-being.
How Does Yoga Help the Mind?
Yoga is more than just a series of body postures. Meant to help the mind and body reconnect to each other and to the universe at large, the benefits of yoga for mental health are considerable.
The deep breathing exercises of yoga can have a calming effect on the mind and allow our nervous systems to re-calibrate as they drink in nourishing fresh air. Anxiety has also been shown to lower with deep breathing, and the postures of yoga can help relax the body as well as the thoughts.
In a way, yoga is the antidote to everything our busy, wired world throws at us. We’re bombarded with digital messages, over-stimulation through smart phones, mindless media, and bad news 24/7. Yoga allows us to reconnect with your physical and spiritual selves in a slow, accepting, thoughtful way, and brings us back into harmony with the real world while allowing our spirits to transcend it.
Yoga slows down the mind, allows us to be fully present in the now, and gives us a thoughtful, meaningful lens through which to view the rest of our lives long after we’ve left the studio. The daily practice of yoga can be of great help to those struggling with anxiety, depression, worries, and even post-traumatic stress.
Yoga Increases Mindfulness
Mindfulness can be described as the practice of doing things purposefully and with full attention, as opposed to rushing through them without thinking. Mindfulness allows us to enjoy the moment while detaching from things beyond our control.
Each yogic asana is meant to bring us fully in tune with our bodies. This practice of slowing down and focusing can help the mind let go of stress and worries, and bring us more fully into the present moment. This is especially true when yoga is combined with meditation, spiritual reading, or relaxing background sounds.
Allowing your body and mind to come back into sync can help ease anxiety, heal the mind-body disconnect caused by over-stimulation, and give your nervous system a much-needed break from digital overload.
Yoga Introduces a Calming Rhythm to Your Day
Yoga can also improve mental health by giving you a meaningful, spiritual way to start each day. Daily rituals can be vital to improving mental health, finding meaning in life, and giving your mind and soul the fuel to keep going and make it through the day.
When you begin your day with yoga, you’re starting the day with something meaningful, relaxing, purposeful, and grounding. This can set the tone for the rest of your day, and allow greater calm and peace to accompany you no matter what you’re doing.
Think of yoga as spiritual food. If you start the day by eating junk food and chugging an energy drink, you’re likely to have a panic attack and a sugar crash before the day’s over. Likewise, if you start the day with mentally stressful activities like doom scrolling, you’re setting your mental health up for failure.
Yoga, on the other hand, is the perfect, calming way to get your mind, emotions, and thoughts to face the day ahead. The gentle morning ritual of yoga can have a wonderful impact on mental health and give your brain and nervous system the energy it needs in a gentle, healthy way..
Can Yoga Help Relieve Depression?
Numerous studies show that yoga can help relieve symptoms of depression. The practice of yoga is thought to help release healing chemicals into the brain, allowing stubborn depression symptoms to ease up.
Many people struggling with chronic depression also report body aches, trouble sleeping, or too much sleep. The practice of yoga can help muscles to relax and stretch, ease the muscle pain caused by depression, and allow the body to feel comfortable enough to sleep well.
The daily ritual of morning yoga can help a depressed person find balance between the mind and body, allow the brain to feel connectivity and joy again, and help reduce or eliminate intense feelings of sorrow or heaviness.
Yoga and PTSD
Studies have also shown that yoga can be beneficial for those struggling with PTSD or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Whether a combat vet or a survivor of abuse, frightening or traumatic experiences can cause deep rifts in the mind and impact the body significantly.
Patients may have trouble sleeping, may find it difficult to control anger, or can struggle with upsetting thoughts. Thankfully, yoga has shown promise in helping here, too.
The healing, slow, grounding asanas of yoga combined with deep breathing can bring greater peace and repair to a mind damaged by pain and trauma. Stress stored up within the body and manifesting as chronic pain can be reduced as the arms, spine, and legs stretch gently. The focus on peace, purpose, and healing the mind-body rift can be especially valuable for those with PTSD, and reduce mental and physical pain significantly.
Yoga has some proven and deeply beneficial impacts on mental health. The emphasis on slow breathing, body postures, mindfulness, and reconnecting the body and mind can help those struggling with depression, anxiety, and even PTSD.
Getting into a daily yoga routine can add greater balance, purpose, and peace to your day. It’s a sort of detox from digital overload, and can help the nervous system and body re-calibrate gently.
Don’t discount yoga if you’re struggling with mental health issues. It can be a wonderful, healing practice that reduces anxiety, increases joy and peace, and allows the mind to better cope with the difficulties of day to day life.
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