3 Ways Yoga Can Improve Your Mental Health
With the rise in popularity of Yoga, its no surprise that there are more variations, modifications and styles to meet everyone’s preferences. Wether its Hatha, Kundalini or Yin Yoga, a regular practice of yoga not only has physical benefits, it also has a profound effect on mental and emotional health. Truthfully, the overall health benefits of a regular yoga practice would be enough information to fill a book, but let's talk about 3 ways that it can improve your mental health.
3 Ways Yoga Can Improve Your Mental Health
1. It can relieve stress of all kinds
A well rounded yoga class helps to reduce stress by lowering cortisol levels, a hormone that goes into action when the body senses stress. This stress can be something like a promotion at work to getting fired. Stress is stress, and a little bit of it is ok, but too much can negatively effect mental health.
In Yoga classes we consciously connect with our breath, and when that happens our movement slows down, our thoughts slow down, and we become calm and focused. This process stimulates the Parasympathetic Nervous System and sends messages to the whole body that we are now entering ‘rest and digest’ mode that not only relaxes the mind and body, but also supports healthy digestion.
Yoga can also reduce physical discomfort from a sore muscle to injuries or accidents. As a matter of fact many physiotherapists and massage therapists will recommend gentle yoga stretches in between appointments for a faster recovery. Practicing yoga can also increase endorphins that will improve mood, plus a regular practice of yoga can lead to increased self acceptance, contentment, and self love.
2. It promotes emotional well-being by calming the mind
Yoga is not limited to the movements alone. It is a practice that also incorporates Pranayama, also known as breathing exercises, and Meditation. Within 5 minutes of performing breathing exercises you may notice your racing thoughts slow down, a shift in perspective from negative to positive, and even has a bio-chemical effect on circulation, heart rate, and blood pressure. On top of that, there are many types of Pranayama that have healing effects on specific mental and emotional blocks such as anxiety, depression, PTSD, and trauma.
Why should you practice meditation? Just 10 minutes of meditation, first thing in the morning or just before bed sets the tone of your day to set the tone for productive day or a restful sleep and encourages optimal mental health. There are many studies that show the psychological benefits of meditation, including decreased stress, increased emotional stability and happiness, increased productivity and focus and much more!
With meditation, a little goes a long way! All you need to do to start is sit and focus on your breath, paying attention to the rhythm. In this fast paced world, meditation is the perfect counter-stretch to achieve balance, everyday.
3. A regular yoga practice promotes other healthy habits
A regular yoga practice naturally comes with other benefits of course! By implementing a regular yoga practice, you are much more likely to implement other health habits that go along with the lifestyle shift.
Most people who have found healing from this practice might consider eating a better diet, spending more time in nature, taking up a sport, or learning to play an instrument.
Practicing yoga can also improve your patience, self love, and ability to let go which can lead to increased happiness and improved mood which are all important in creating and sticking to new habits.
Your yoga practice is time you have dedicated to yourself, and over time you learn to manage stress by finding peace, you learn to appreciate where you are on your path, and let go of expectations of where you should be. This can only improve mental and emotional health, immediately and in the long run.
Try This 2 Minute Practice!
- Come to a comfortable seated position, this can be on the floor or in a chair, sitting tall and hands anywhere on your knees. Close your eyes and bring your attention from the outside world to the inside world.
- Breathing through your nose, inhale slowly to the count of 3, and exhale slowly for a count of 3, repeat this 5 times.
- Repeat this cycle again, only this time pause and hold your breath for one count in between your inhales and exhales.
- This time, inhale for a count of 3, and exhale for the count of 4 (or more). Repeat this 5 times
- Once completed find your natural breath, open your eyes, and enjoy the feeling vibrating though your body.
- Find your natural breath and go on with your day. You can also that this opportunity to sit and meditate if possible.
This simple practice can help to relieve stress, lower anxiety, and focus your mind. You can physically feel the tension melt away and your thoughts slow down in less than 2 minutes! Imagine what 5, 10, 20 minutes a day can do.
Maddalena is a passionate Yoga and Ayurveda teacher and student. She actively combines complimentary healing modalities to improve the quality of health for herself and her clients. Her holistic health coaching focuses on mind, body and spirit healing. Maddalena loves educating others on the health benefits of a whole food and plant-based diets as well as the importance of seasonal eating. She teaches therapeutic styles of Yoga, Pranayama and meditation practices, as well as a variety of Reiki healing treatments 1-on-1, in groups and in her taught classes.