Yoga is an increasingly popular practice in the United States. Both anecdotal and an increasing body of scientific studies show that regular yoga practice has many health benefits, especially mental health. If you suffer from mental health conditions like anxiety or depression, or if you just want to reduce your feelings of stress, yoga may be able to help with that.
Yoga Combines Mind and Body
Many people see yoga as a low-impact or low-stress physical activity. While there are certainly physical elements involved, and certain forms of yoga can be strenuous, there is more to yoga than just a replacement for a gym workout. When yoga is practiced correctly, it serves as a way to combine mind and body and allow a person bring balance to their whole self.
Many people are also kinesthetic learners. When their body does a certain thing, their mind follows along. Yoga takes this understanding of the connection between mind and body to a higher level. The various yoga poses, known as asanas, are representative of various ideas, mental states or emotions. For example, assuming the so-called warrior poses may instill a greater sense of strength or confidence. In this way, yoga goes beyond simple exercise by using the body to positively influence the mind.
Encourages Better Habits
The state of the body has a major impact on the state of the mind. Regular exercise and a healthy diet have been shown to reduce stress, increase energy levels and result in higher levels of overall happiness. While a person certainly can eat healthy and exercise without practicing yoga, developing a yoga mindset greatly encourages being healthy in all other parts of your life.
Yoga Encourages Deep Reflection and Acceptance
Many yoga professionals see yoga as a psychological practice. In addition to the physical movements, practitioners are encouraged to think deeply about themselves and come to a better understanding of self and self-worth. This is often done through meditation at each yoga session.
This also involves looking at parts of yourself that may be challenging or difficult. Some yoga instructors refer to this as your “shadow self.” It is the part of you that you’d rather forget about or repress. Any good therapist will tell you that repression is not healthy, and that even if you cannot fully express those parts of yourself, it is still important to acknowledge them and give them an outlet. Yoga encourages this appreciation of all the parts of yourself and an acceptance of those other qualities you may have. Self-acceptance, rather than denial, can have a major positive impact on mental health.
Stress Modulation and Resistance
Everyone experiences stress and stressful situations in daily life. One measure of a person’s mental health is how they respond to stress and how much stress they can handle before feeling the symptoms normally associated with being “stressed out.” Everyone has a certain amount of stress tolerance. Studies related to yoga show that the practice not only creates temporary deep relaxation, it also increases a person’s stress resistance and their ability to modulate, or control, the effect future stress has on their body and mood.
Stress and the stress response have a major impact on both mental and physical health. When a person becomes more stress resistant, then the aspects of daily life that once seemed very challenging or even overwhelming become manageable. A person who can use yoga to develop this stress resistance doesn’t necessarily have to change his or her life to avoid stress because they will be able to better handle the stress they have.
Owning Family History
Family histories, relationships with parents and events from childhood are often major sources of mental anxiety and problems for adults. Few parents are perfect, and some past family situations can be very traumatic. In line with yoga’s overall theme of acceptance is the idea that it helps a person come to terms with their family and their past. This is something they did not have control over, and it is not something they can change.
The blame many people lay on their parents or past can be a major source of mental strain. Yoga attempts to repurpose or reframe these thoughts and embrace them rather than reject them. Yes, negative things happened in the past, but there is a reason and even a benefit to even some of the most dire situations and histories. Yoga encourages a healthy relationship with this past and family history that is focused on healing and acceptance rather than blame and avoidance.
Yoga is an incredible practice that is unique in its ability to combine both physical and mental health practices. It’s important to go to a mental health clinic like Comprehensive Behavioral Health Associates Inc in the case of a deep-set mental issue, but yoga is a great way to take care of these problems as they come. Increasingly, it has demonstrated an ability to improve both mental health and overall wellness in individuals of any age or spiritual background. It is also easily accessible to people of almost any age or level of health.
Dixie Somers is a freelance writer and blogger for business, home, and family niches. Dixie lives in Phoenix, Arizona, and is the proud mother of three beautiful girls and wife to a wonderful husband.