According to Our World in Data 2018’s survey, over 970 million people suffer from a mental illness or a substance use disorder. It is no wonder that people who prioritize their physical as well as mental health choose to indulge in healthy eating and physical activities to maintain their well-being and lifestyle. One common activity that helps people who have mental issues is yoga, which is regularly practised by over 300 million people globally. And in this article, we plan to tell you why yoga is beneficial for mental health.
What Is Yoga?
Yoga is a popular form of Hindu asceticism. It is a collection of spiritual, physical and mental practices to help people balance their mind and body through meditation, physical activities and controlled breathing. It has the ability to lower stress hormones in humans and increase endorphins, along with other brain chemicals. In other words, they help in decreasing anxiety and improve the practitioner’s mood.
Physically, yoga helps in maintaining balance, strength and flexibility.
How Can Yoga Help With Mental Health Problems?
When one practices yoga, a part of their brain that plays an important role in thought, memory, awareness, and attention is strengthened. Moreover, research has shown that those who practice yoga and mediate have enhanced executive functions like memory, learning, reasoning, decision-making, and accuracy on mental acuity tests.
Serotonin, dopamine, oxytocin, and endorphins are the four major brain chemicals that all play a vital role whenever you experience happiness. Yoga has the ability to release these chemicals because, despite the activities being slow-paced and controlled, it increases your heart rate and puts a lot of strain on your muscles. These can then induce the brain chemicals to be released. So, when you experience happiness, your stress level, depression and anxiety can also decrease.
Let’s dive deeper into this and take a closer look at some of the mental health benefits of yoga, shall we?
Helps With Depression: For those who have depression, yoga can be a helpful tool to cope with it. Yoga can be adapted to daily mood by incorporating practices to improve emotional, physical, and spiritual health. Researchers believe that yoga can be a helpful treatment for those with depression, much like those of psychotherapy and medication. Moreover, practising yoga does not cost much. It is easily accessible, and it can be self-administered. And let’s not forget the helpful brain chemicals that it helps to release.
Helps To Alleviate Stress: Yoga is ideal for all levels because it’s a practice designed to help you in becoming more aware of your own highly individual mind and body connection. This allows you to focus on what you are doing and boosts your concentration and awareness. This way, it becomes easier to focus on positivity rather than negativity. And with calm settings, soothing music, and a positive mindset surrounding you, your stress and tension can be reduced.
Moreover, yoga poses allow you to release physical blockages such as muscle knots, as well as emotions and tension. They help in relieving tensions, maintaining flexibility and reducing pain.
Helps To Reduce Anxiety: If you are someone who occasionally or frequently experiences anxiety attacks, you would know that one of the symptoms is hyperventilation, meaning that you find it hard to breathe. You see, with anxiety comes breathing problems. And yoga’s emphasis on breathing exercises can work wonders when you feel anxious. Moreover, when you are so focused on your yoga poses, it tends to help get rid of the negative thoughts and enhance your mood altogether.
Helps To Boost Focus, Concentration, And Memory: Yoga requires concentration during practice as you need to find a focal point during balancing postures. For instance, let’s say you are doing a tree pose where you have to stand with just one foot for a while. Now, When you are too focused on maintaining your form and balance, you can hardly think of anything else. This helps you in maintaining calming your senses and clearing your thoughts. This helps in improving your concentration, memory and focus.
Helps To Improve Sleep: One of the many purposes of yoga is to practice mindfulness, which can boost melatonin levels in adults. A study involving yoga practitioners over the age of 60 reported improved sleep quality and quantity.
It’s important to remember that despite much research backing yoga practice as a treatment tool for mental health, it may not be for everyone. We advise that you see your therapist as well as a professional yoga instructor before you embark on this journey. If at any time you feel that practising yoga is a trigger for your depression, anxiety, or stress, we also advise that you stop it and seek alternative treatment options with the help of your doctor.
We hope this blog helps you in understanding the benefits of yoga for mental health.