The practice of yoga has often been linked to decreased anxiety, the easing of depression, improved concentration, and an overall increase in happiness and well-being. The benefits of yoga for mental health have been researched and documented prolifically for centuries but, of course, research can only take us so far; there’s no substitute for experience! If you’re curious about how the wonderful mental health benefits of yoga could help you, be sure to read through our top 5 tips.
1. Yoga Keeps Your Brain Sharp
While practising yoga, the brain is forced to focus more than usual to help the body to maintain balance and coordination. As a result of this increased focus, new connections are made between brain cells and, as a result, several highly beneficial functional and structural changes begin to take place. These changes include improved cognitive skills, attention and awareness. They can even increase our ability to learn languages, solve problems and think more quickly and effectively.
2. Yoga Improves Memory
The benefits of yoga for mental health are numerous. As well as improving cognitive function, studies suggest that yoga and meditation may help keep the brain fit and strong. Yoga has been shown to increase the thickness of the neocortex and the hippocampus, parts of the brain that play a huge role in memory and learning. It has also been shown to prevent age-related cognitive decline. In fact, older people who regularly practise yoga tend to experience less shrinkage in these key areas of the brain than those who do not practise yoga at all.
3. Yoga Improves Mood and Outlook
At PYC we encourage you to accept yourself, just as you are today. Over time you will become more appreciative of yourself and your body. For those of you starting out on your yoga mental health journey, the first step is learning how to focus on just the feeling of breath going in and out of the body. If you’re 100% in tune with that, you’re not worried about anybody else’s opinions, judgments or other stressors and pressures. Regular practitioners will tell you about yoga’s ability to help them with everything from mood and emotions to balance, flexibility and strength.
Yoga can help improve your mood by reducing levels of stress hormones in the body, increasing the production of endorphins (feel-good chemicals), and bringing more oxygenated blood to your brain. Meditation has been shown to reduce hyperactivity in the limbic system, which is responsible for emotions. This means that people who meditate regularly may have a more positive outlook and be less reactive to stressful incidents.
4. Yoga Reduces Anxiety
Yoga has been shown to be an effective way to alleviate symptoms of anxiety. A review of 12 studies that included a total of 1,080 participants found that yoga helped reduce symptoms of depression, anxiety and stress far more effectively than drugs and talk therapy.
The authors of the study also concluded that yoga and music are effective relaxation techniques for reducing depression and anxiety in older adults, as it appears to provide the longest-lasting effect. Yoga may even help people with PTSD by reducing intrusive memories and emotional arousal and by encouraging calmer, steadier breathing.
Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a neurotransmitter that helps regulate communication between nerve cells in the brain has been shown to play a key role in reducing anxiety. Studies suggest that yoga helps to trigger the GABA supplements that may elevate levels of this neurotransmitter in the brain. This in turn has been said to improve mood and decrease anxiety.
5. Yoga Promotes Better Sleep
A natural side benefit that often emerges from a reduction of anxiety is improved sleep, particularly for those who suffer from stress-related insomnia or disrupted sleep patterns. By helping us to achieve a more balanced outlook, yoga can also help to increase self-esteem and reduce overthinking, both of which can affect our sleep in these challenging times.
If you are struggling with mental health issues, and have tried everything else to restore inner harmony, consider giving yoga mental health a try – it just might help you to feel better in your mind, body and soul.
How we can help
Yoga is a lifelong, non-competitive form of exercise that allows students to connect with a supportive community. It can also be a solo practice, part of a dedicated time to step away from the stress of the day and focus on yourself. Whether you come to the studio or join from home, you’ll be boosting your wellbeing, improving your sleep and showing your body some love.
Starting a yoga practice is a journey toward better mental health. It begins with accepting yourself at all levels and then experiencing the physical and mental benefits that naturally follow. Even 1 class a week can help improve mood, reduce stress and anxiety, and promote better sleep. Additionally, yoga can help to increase self-esteem and body awareness and can be a helpful tool in managing difficult emotions.
If you’d like to discover the many other mental health benefits of yoga, why not conduct your own personal research by booking a class?
The Power Yoga Company offers over 90 classes a week! Call us today and start your journey back to inner harmony and peace.