9 Mental Health Benefits of Yoga
Originating from India, Yoga is an ancient Sanskrit word meaning to join together; a complete union of the mind, body and soul, and returning to one’s inherent peace.
Around the world, more than 300 million people now practice yoga.
- Yoga quietens thoughts and calms the mind. Depending on the yoga technique you choose, yoga can be practiced to energise or to calm.
- When we feel anxious, it is because our sympathetic nervous system is dominant, so our breath is typically shorter and shallower. Using yoga breathing not only helps us stay in the present moment (thus, helping with feelings of anxiety) but also soothes the nervous system – from fight-or-flight to rest-and-digest - resulting in a relaxation response.
- Yoga increases body awareness, relieves feelings of stress, reduces tension in the muscles and improves concentration, while calming the nervous system.
- Often used in psychotherapy, practicing yoga has been seen to enhance social well-being by increasing a sense of belonging, while also improving symptoms of depression and sleep disorders.
- Studies have shown practicing yoga leads to improved mood, behaviour and mindfulness of high school students, as well as improving levels of well-being and resilience in the workplace.
- It improves your relationships, which in turn improves your mental health. Practicing yoga regularly helps to develop friendliness and compassion. Furthermore, when you are more centred and at peace with yourself, you’ll be the same way with the close people in your life. Positive relationships thus improve your feelings of well-being and belonging, aiding your mental health.
- It helps you get a deeper sleep. Yoga can help to provide relief from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Practicing restorative yoga or Yoga Nidra gives your nervous system some downtime, leading to better sleep. Sleeping better, in turn, reduces feelings of stress and anxiety and improves overall health.
- It quietens the mind. As many of us know, over-thinking leads to stress, anxiety and general feelings of unease. Yoga slows down these mental loops, whether they are surrounding anger, regret, worry or fear – thus reducing the likelihood of these thoughts leading to stress. Since stress is linked to so many other health problems, from migraines and insomnia to MS and heart attacks, learning to calm your mind will also increase your likelihood of living a longer and healthier life.
- Encourages self-care. Yoga encourages you to get involved in your own care, and do something for yourself to make you feel better. The more your practice, the more you will benefit and this will give you hope that you, yourself, can effect change. Hope itself can be incredibly healing.