Yoga is a disciplined practice, which has been used around the world for thousands of years. There is a reason for its longevity and continuously increasing popularity, and it has everything to do with the benefits it provides to your body, mind, and soul. As self-care becomes priority number one for many individuals, it's no surprise that they are also looking to benefit from the mental health boosting effects of yoga.
Unfortunately, we can’t avoid all the negative, stressful, and depressing issues life has to offer, but with the proper skills, tools, and knowledge, yoga can provide relief, clarity, and improve your mental health in many ways.
How Can the Benefits of Yoga Boost Mental Health?
The power of yoga can transform the body and spirit and is ideal for all walks of life no matter your state of well-being or physical makeup. One important benefit yoga offers, is its ability to improve your mental health and frame of mind, giving you the mental strength to overcome even your biggest challenges.
So, how can yoga be so beneficial? Let’s take a look.
Provides Stress Relief
Statistics suggest that in 143 countries around the world the average number of people who have reported being stressed out is 35%. That is a little more than 1/3 of the population. How scary is that?
Although it is terrifying to think so many of us struggle with mental health issues daily whether they are issues out of our control or choices we make, there is some relief that can be found simply through the practice of yoga.
How Does Yoga Relieve Stress?
Yoga is a fabulous combination of slow-moving poses, meditation, relaxation, reflection, and exercise. These practices are wonderful for stress relief on their own, but together they bring a powerful mixture of healing, calmness, and peace.
Incorporating crystals, mantras, or affirmations into the workout can add to the end result.
Improves Your Mood
Your body and mind work together to produce chemical reactions (with dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine) that determine how you feel, think, and behave. Those who tend to have negative thoughts, mood swings, irritability, and anger, typically find that practicing yoga reduces the amount of tension and negative feelings that build up over time.
How Does Yoga Improve Mood?
Yoga incorporates a lot of breathwork into every pose, teaching the practitioner how to control their breathing patterns, slowing it down, and pulling it from the abdomen and not the chest. This form of breathing creates a sense of calmness, alleviates stress and negative thinking, and creates a peaceful and positive outlook.
Increases Your Energy Levels
Our daily lives often leave us feeling run down and depleted of any type of energy, which tends to keep us from doing the things we enjoy and or leaves us feeling less productive, increasing our stress levels and affecting how we feel mentally.
How Does Yoga Improve Energy?
Yoga isn’t just about breathing and balance, but strength and endurance as well. If you have ever heard the term, “a body in motion, stays in motion” you can probably figure out how Yoga can aid in increased energy levels.
Simply put, when you feel good physically, you will feel good emotionally and mentally.
Ways to Utilize Yoga to Improve Your Mental Health
It is amazing how quickly you will begin to notice the benefits of incorporating yoga into your life. Whether it is a few times a week or an hour a day, you will start to feel better mentally, physically, spiritually, and emotionally.
What are some ways you can use yoga to your mental advantage?
Focus on Your Breath
Many people aren’t aware of how important breathwork really is. When we feel anxious, scared, or even angry, our body naturally responds by breathing quicker and with more shallow breaths, this being the “fight or flight” mode.
To increase your mood, don’t just go through the motions, concentrate on each and every inhale and exhale your lungs produce.
How to practice yoga breathing for improved mental health:
Practice yoga breathing somewhere quiet where you can focus and concentrate without distraction. You can increase the tranquility in the room with some quality incense, candles, and lighting.
Breathe in and out through the nose, concentrating on a steady slow pattern, avoiding any rapid breath. This may feel difficult at first, especially in tough poses, but with frequent training and practice, it will become much easier.
Listen to your body, it knows best and will tell you when you need to take a break. You won’t get the same number of mental benefits from the practice if you’re not in complete control.
Don’t Be Afraid to Push Yourself
Yoga is a practice that never becomes stale or outdated, there is always more to achieve and benefits to gain. While continuing to do what you know is a positive way to motivate yourself and create peace of mind, extending your body and reaching new levels of flexibility and enlightenment can open you up to a healthier stage of mental awareness.
Understand the Different Types of Yoga
There are many different yoga practices out there, all are beneficial in their own ways, but some are more useful when it comes to a healthy mental state, typically the ones that focus a lot on breathing and clarity.
Types of yoga for mental health:
- Hatha Yoga
- Vinyasa Yoga
- Yin Yoga
- Restorative Yoga
Practice Positive Thinking
Remember those affirmations we talked about earlier? These are little phrases or short sentences you can repeat to yourself while practicing yoga that can help quickly boost your mood and frame of mind.
- My body is strong, my mind is strong, and I am strong
- I will not let these negative thoughts bring me down
- My mind is clear, and my body is relaxed
- I hold the key to my own happiness
- The stronger my body becomes the stronger my mental self will be
You can use the examples above or come up with affirmations of your own to incorporate into your yoga practice.
While it would be amazing, there is no way to avoid stress, trauma, and negativity all of the time. Luckily there are plenty of ways to improve the way you feel mentally through the power of an invigorating yoga session.
Remember, your mind is a powerful thing, when you are healthy mentally, you can do just about anything you set your sights on.