When the pandemic first began, it was a time of uncertainty for everyone. Offices and schools closed down, people lost their jobs, and many were stuck at home for a year or more. All of this took a toll on our collective mental health. In fact, it’s estimated that the number of American adults with depression and anxiety increased from 36% to 41% in the past year alone.
If you’re feeling down, you may have been scouring the Internet for ways to productively work through any negative emotions. Here, we propose an activity that can help you hone your mind and body at the same time: yoga. Below, we discuss more about how the centuries-old practice can help improve your mental health.
It relieves stress
Controlled breathing is a big part of yoga. Pranayama, or yogic breathing, involves a vast array of techniques and patterns such as viloma (interrupted breathing), bhramari (humming bee breath), and nadishodhana (alternate nostril breathing). This can improve your lung function and lower blood pressure, which in turn can calm the nervous system. Ultimately, this can lead to lesser amounts of the stress hormone cortisol in your bloodstream.
It keeps your brain strong
Yoga can keep your brain healthy on a physical level too. With pranayama and various poses helping to regulate your mood, yoga can activate areas in the brain that are responsible for memory and information processing. The 2019 study Yoga Effects on Brain Health explains that this can help protect your brain from neurodegenerative decline, lowering your chances of developing illnesses like dementia and Alzheimer’s.
It helps you sleep better
We’ve previously discussed the importance of sleep in maintaining your health and overall happiness. By practicing yoga, you can fall asleep faster, experience fewer sleep disturbances, and wake up feeling more refreshed the next day. Yoga also counts as a form of regular exercise, which is a building block of good sleep hygiene. In fact, 55% of yoga practitioners surveyed by the Sleep Foundation reported improved quality of sleep. Combined with all the other benefits mentioned above, becoming a yogi can definitely improve your mental health and quality of life overall.
It fosters mental health recovery
Your mood is chemically influenced by the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). Low GABA levels are linked with mental health issues like depression and anxiety. Yoga postures can help keep your GABA levels up, maintaining a bright and happy mood that can even treat conditions like PTSD. In fact, the groundbreaking study Yoga as an Adjunctive Treatment for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder found that after 10 weeks of practicing yoga, 52% of participants no longer met the criteria for PTSD.
How to start practicing yoga for your mental health
If you want to start yoga for mental health benefits, consider beginning your journey with medical therapeutic yoga sessions. These are run by licensed professionals who will have studied dedicated healthcare management courses to help you manage your physical and mental health. Many will have experience in different healthcare settings in order to improve their skills. This ensures that they can provide the most effective practical solutions. Consequently, they can formulate and guide you through specialized exercises that practice traditional yoga within the framework of Western medicine. By starting out with yoga that is specifically designed to tackle mental health issues, you can significantly increase the benefits for your wellbeing over time.
Alternatively, you can use our yoga app, which offers over 1,000 custom yoga classes developed by top instructors for every type of practitioner. For example, you can choose to enter into beginner classes or perform 60-minute guided routines. Once you’re ready to set out on your own, you can fully explore the world of yoga and enjoy all the advantages it has to offer — for both your mind and body.
Article was written by Reanne Jefferson
Exclusively for THE YOGA COLLECTIVE