6 Vital Ways Yoga Improves Your Mental Health

Written by Posted On Thursday, 04 October 2018 23:41

Every week, millions of people around the world practice yoga to improve their flexibility and strength, but did you know that there is also a strong connection between yoga and good mental health? For years, medical researchers have agreed that yoga can be a low-risk way to help manage the symptoms of stress, depression and anxiety. Let’s explore some specific ways yoga can improve your mental health.

Improved Breathing

Breathing exercises are a key part of any regular yoga practice. We all breathe, so you know that respiration is vital to your health, but it’s not just about delivering oxygen to your body; how you breathe is also important for your health and your well-being.

In yoga, you learn to take deep, slow breaths, in through your nose, filling your belly and your body with air. Then you exhale slowly through your mouth. Breathing exercises with slow, deliberate and deep breaths in and out are a part of every yoga session, and each yoga pose comes with specific instructions on how to breathe properly to enhance the pose’s benefits.

When you breathe slowly, deeply and deliberately, you are signalling to your nervous system that you are safe and therefore able to rest and digest. Deep, slow breathes activate your parasympathetic nervous system which, in turn, slows your heart rate and increases your intestinal activity. It is a way to tell your body that it’s time to calm down and de-stress.

In contrast, taking short, shallow gasps or holding your breath triggers the opposite reaction in your body, signalling to your body that there is danger and activating your fight-or-flight response. This kind of breathing activates your sympathetic nervous system which increases your heart rate and your blood pressure.

People living with stress, depression or anxiety can benefit by learning these deep breathing techniques to help moderate their symptoms. Knowing how to use these techniques can help reduce your heart rate and your blood pressure, helping you respond to stress more effectively.

Increased Mindfulness

The second way yoga works to improve your mental health is through mindfulness. You’ve probably heard the term a lot recently, as it has become a real buzz word. In truth, it has been a key component of yoga for thousands of years.

Mindfulness happens when you focus on the moment you are living in right now. Rather than thinking ahead to something in the future or focusing on some past memory, you are living fully in the present moment. Yoga helps you achieve this mindfulness by teaching you to focus your mind on your body’s immediate state. You focus on your breathing, on how your body is feeling, and on the slow and deliberate yoga poses you are doing.

Yoga means “to unite” in Sanskrit, and this is appropriate since yoga unites your body and your mind. Regular yoga practice will teach you mindfulness techniques, which have been shown by medical research to help alleviate stress and anxiety as well as to moderate the symptoms of depression.

Greater Body Awareness and Acceptance

A third way that yoga improves your mental health is by encouraging body awareness and body acceptance. Yoga is a good exercise for people of all ages and all physical abilities. It helps improve flexibility and muscle strength, and it can also help regulate heart rate and blood pressure. Doctors all agree there is a strong connection between physical and mental health, and regular exercise is often recommended for people struggling with mental health problems. Yoga provides a low-impact, low-risk entry into physical activity which can improve your sense of self and your confidence.

Enhanced Calmness and Serenity

Yoga’s exercise, breathing techniques, and mindfulness are known to have a calming effect on the brain. Schools around the world are even experiencing success in introducing yoga classes for children to help with attention deficit disorders and hyperactivity.

Improved Social Well-being

Yoga can also help improve your sense of social well being. Often, people who are suffering from anxiety and depression can feel socially isolated and alone. Participating in yoga classes can offer a sense of belonging and social contact in a low-stress, welcoming environment.

Better Sleep

Lastly, another key component to good mental health is sleep. Extensive research has shown that getting enough good quality sleep is critical for all aspects of your physical and mental health. Again, regular exercise as well as mindful meditation have also been proven to help you get the correct amount and quality of sleep that you need.

Doctors and mental health experts agree that a strong link exists between your physical health and your mental health. Treatment plans for all mental health disorders or illnesses usually include a recommendation to incorporate regular physical exercise for all the reasons listed above, and yoga is often the perfect choice for that low-stress exercise that can put you on the path to complete mental and physical wellness.

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