Yoga essentially means, “that which brings you to reality”. According to a study conducted in 2016, approximately 37 million Americans practice yoga. Yoga is a physical, mental, and spiritual practice that promotes health and relaxation through controlled breathing, meditation, and the implementation of certain postures. Thus, yoga can benefit mental health in several wonderful ways:
- Yoga helps the individual with their stress level. Through breathing and body movement, yoga assists with lowering the heart rate reducing blood pressure, and making respiration easier. This, in turn, helps the person more effectively with stress responses. Cortisol, a stress hormone, can be lowered through yoga positions and other conditions may be eased such as anxiety, depression, fatigue, asthma, and insomnia.
- Yoga helps improve the body’s functioning and alignment. Yoga incorporates positions that build flexibility and mobility, allowing for broader ranges of movement and helping place the body in better alignment.
- Yoga helps the person focus on the present. By practicing yoga, one can become more centered and balanced, building concentration, memory, coordination and reaction time. These are all wonderful qualities that can help an individual who is suffering from a mental illness.
- Yoga increases strength and weight management. The poses used in yoga incorporate all muscles, which helps people increase their strength all throughout their body. Many positions (both intense and less intense) help the body to burn additional calories and reduce stress.
- Yoga assists with pain relief. Yoga positions help blood circulation and aids the body with recovery. If someone is feeling stressed, yoga poses can often help relieve some of the pain from that.
- Yoga helps with breathing. Yoga teaches people to take slower, deeper breaths. In doing this, the body’s relaxation response is triggered and more oxygen is distributed throughout the body. With breathing being a major component of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), individuals who suffer from a mental illness can benefit greatly from this.
- Yoga can help the individual find inner peace. Yoga is comprised of meditative components, and this can lead people to develop a deeper, more enriching spiritual perspective. In doing this, the person may find more purpose and satisfaction in their life.
Yoga programs are very common and are very easy to find. Some hospitals and rehabilitation facilities also offer weekly yoga programs for their patients. Yoga centers and gyms are other places to find groups who do this. The benefits of yoga truly take place when the person dedicates themselves to the practice. By practicing yoga, one has found a very healthy and effective way to manage their mental health.
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What is yoga? (n. d.). Retrieved on September 2nd, 2017, from http://isha.sadhguru.org/yoga/new-to-yoga/what-is-yoga/
Yoga. (n. d.). Mental Health Wellness Week. Retrieved on September 2nd, 2017, from http://www.mhww.org/yoga.html
Yoga for anxiety and depression. (2009). Retrieved on September 2nd, 2017, from https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/yoga-for-anxiety-and-depression