Sure, yoga can make you more flexible, strengthen your core, and even tone your muscles. But the most powerful effects of regular yoga practice may be its mental health benefits.
Yoga is a spiritual, mental, and physical discipline from India. Yoga comprises many breathing techniques and other forms of meditation. Yoga is also a form of physical exercise involving a variety of postures and poses. The practice of yoga provides many health benefits, particularly in the area of mental health.
The mental health benefits of yoga stem from its ability to shut down negative thoughts and other worries over which we have no control. In doing so, yoga teaches the mind to stay centered in the here and the now. In psychology, this practice is known as mindfulness. Mindfulness is how yoga exerts most of it mental health benefits.
One of the most appealing aspect of yoga is that its practice can be whatever you want it to be. Yoga truly is for everyone. If you desire, you can just use it as a means of physical exercise; or, if you’d prefer, it can be all about the breathing or mind exercises. The essence of yoga is the union between mind and body, and a focus on the present.
The physical benefits of yoga are fairly obvious so let’s focus on what yoga can do for your mental health. There are many ways in which yoga can restore and improve our mental health. Yoga gives us a means of releasing tightly-held emotions—both good and bad—that we have held onto and that which distract us. These emotions cause various forms of suffering, but yoga allows us to heal.
Here are 3 additional ways that yoga can benefit our mental health.
Yoga Mental Health Benefits: #1 Less Stress
Yoga lowers stress levels. While practicing yoga, we are able to release our physical tension. Most of the yoga postures are based on tensing and then releasing muscles. This allows us to relax and, in the process, let go of the stress. Yoga also lowers stress by increasing body awareness.
Another benefit of yoga is that it helps suppress the worrisome chain of thoughts that sustains our stress. Yoga helps us to identify when we are stressed out, makes it easier to suspend those thoughts, and then to release that stress. In the process, our mental health is improved and our self-healing mechanisms are established and reinforced.
Yoga Mental Health Benefits: #2 Reduced Anxiety
Yoga reduces anxiety and yoga exercises are helpful in decreasing its symptoms. Yoga consists of many breathing exercises. According to research, breathing exercises are a great way to regulate anxiety, as our breath is connected to our nervous system, and our nervous system processes anxious thoughts.
Yoga can slow and deepen our breathing, and it soothes the nervous system and decreases anxiety. Also through yoga, we are able to keep our minds in the here and now. This helps us to manage our thoughts and to stop the worry that feeds anxiety.
Yoga Mental Health Benefits: #3 Self-Love
Yoga provides an opportunity for self-kindness. Yoga trains the mind to accept others as well as ourselves. In the process, we get in touch with how we feel and what we think. In becoming more grounded, we are also more attuned to our abilities, and this triggers a process of acceptance.
Committing to a yoga class forces us to take time from our busy schedules and do something just for us. And through its ability to exercise the mind and not just the body, we are able to think more positively and improve our self-image, a key aspect of mental health.
So what are you waiting for? Join a yoga class today and start experiencing the powerful mental health benefits.