Western medicine is just beginning to recognize the benefits of the ancient Indian spiritual practice of yoga. Uma Inder, a respected yoga instructor, and Ayurvedic practitioner examine the reasons why people with mental health concerns like depression and anxiety should consider adding a yoga practice to their lives.
The mental health benefits of yoga have been well-documented in the scientific literature. Yoga helps to relieve stress, anxiety, and depression. It works by reducing the levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, in the body. It also helps to produce endorphins, the feel-good chemicals.
Yoga provides a calm and centered feeling, which is beneficial for anyone who is subject to emotional difficulties. When a person practices yoga, they feel connected to their innermost self and feel able to internalize their personal truths and values. Yoga promotes a deep spiritual understanding of the self. This helps a person think about their difficulties in a new light, connecting them to better health.
When a person practices yoga, the first lesson that is taught is to pay attention to their breath. All life comes from breath, and when people take the time to concentrate fully on their breath, they find that their anxiety is lowered.
Next, yoga promotes a connection between the body and mind. Exercising the body through yoga movements helps people to be mindful of their own presence. For example, a mountain pose promotes strength and steadfastness. A child’s pose promotes deep relaxation.
In several studies, yoga has been shown to lower cortisol levels in the body. Cortisol is the hormone responsible for the fight-or-flight response. Stress and anxiety affect the level of this chemical. Over just a few months, yoga has the potential to make a person more resilient and better able to deal with life’s large and small problems.
Cortisol is not only associated with anxiety; it is also one of the factors driving depression. Studies find that yoga decreases depression by moderating levels of cortisol. People who are depressed find that they gain a more positive outlook on life when they practice yoga. Having a fully connected mind and body benefits not only depressed people but can be a great help to anyone. The rise in endorphins that is created when people exercise also helps to combat depression.
Another factor that seriously impacts many people’s mental health is sleep quality. The effect of yoga on sleep quality has been well-studied. Both elderly and ill patients found that they were better able to fall asleep, that they got more sleep overall, and that they felt better in the morning.
The meditative quality of yoga also helps people to organize their thoughts. Many people with anxiety and depression are plagued with intrusive thoughts. Through careful breath work and rhythmic movements, yoga can help people overcome these frightening feelings.
Meditating on a person’s problems also helps them learn to solve these difficulties on their own. When done in concert with therapy, yoga has the potential to transform a person’s life. Yoga practitioners may even find that they need fewer antidepressant and anti-anxiety medications when they are consistent with their practice.
In addition to mental benefits, yoga also promotes physical health. Flexibility, strength, and digestion are all aided by regular yoga practice. Yoga may have benefits for cardiac health, and it could reduce migraine headaches.
Uma Inder reminds readers that yoga can benefit everyone, regardless of their mental health status. Yoga is especially helpful for those with anxiety, depression, and other conditions. It makes concrete and measurable changes to the body and mind. If you are having personal difficulties, look into taking a yoga class and beginning your own journey toward a healthier, happier you.