News • 20 Jun 2022

Five Ways Yoga Can Improve Your Mental Health

Today, on the International Day of Yoga, we look at five ways this ancient practice can enhance your mental health.

Originating in India more than 2,500 years ago, yoga encompasses ‘asanas’ (exercises) that work to unify your physical, mental, and spiritual states.

 

While all exercise plays a role in improving your mental health, yoga is particularly helpful as it incorporates a focus on breath and meditation to help quieten the mind.

 

Today, on the International Day of Yoga, we look at five ways this ancient practice can enhance your mental health.

 

1. Gives you tools to ground yourself

Grounding techniques can be used to navigate your way through times of stress, anxiety and overwhelm.

The breathwork and meditation incorporated into yoga are considered grounding techniques and are wonderful foundations for self-soothing and emotional regulation.  

Meditation has been shown to reduce activity in the limbic system, which is the part of our brain that hosts our emotions. It is easier to respond calmly to stressful situations when our emotions are in check.

2. Reduces your stress and anxiety

Yoga has been identified as a successful complementary therapy for stress, depression and anxiety, with a longer lasting effect than other natural treatments such as massage and listening to music.

A typical yoga session will give you an hour of peaceful, gentle movement that concludes with meditation. This serene practice is perfect for relaxation and has been proven to reduce cortisol and enhance your sleep quality.

As your body follows the various movements in yoga, your brain releases a dose of the natural mood-boosting, feel-good hormone, serotonin.

3. Encourages you to maintain a healthy lifestyle

The great news is that the more serotonin you produce from exercise, the more you will want to exercise. This will encourage you to keep taking positive steps for your health and wellbeing.

Research also suggests that the mental focus and emotional stamina gained through yoga can assist with attaining other health goals such as sobriety.

4. Improves your mood

Yoga helps you to become aware of your physical, mental and emotional tension and equips you with the means to relieve it.

Sometimes a side-effect of physical pain can be mental and emotional discomfort. For example, an ongoing niggling pain in your lower back can make you irritable. A good hour on the yoga mat can help alleviate that pain and consequently lift your mood.

5. Improves your cognitive skills

Stress, depression and anxiety all have a negative impact on cognitive function. Scientific studies suggest yoga helps to counter-balance their negative impacts with its unique combination of physical movement, breathing exercises and meditation.

Researchers have also discovered yoga may have a positive effect on the brain’s ability to retain memory and process information. To reap these benefits, it is best to practice yoga at least once a week for a minimum of 10 weeks. Hatha yoga has been found to be the most beneficial for improved cognitive function.  

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