Yoga Benefits for Mental Health

Hooray- I’ve actually spent the last week regularly practising yoga again! I feel stronger (already!), have more clarity and focus and feel that I’ve achieved something, which is always great for the self-esteem! This with only 20-30 minutes most days.

For about 3-5 years (on and off) I attended yoga classes once a week. I would often practice a little at home too. This has given me a great grounding in basic technique, which is enough for me to continue practising without classes at the moment.

Yoga Is For Everybody- All Shapes and Sizes!

The great thing about yoga is that ANYBODY can do it- even if you’re bigger like me or not particularly flexible. Those images of people twisting themselves into the most unlikely poses are pictures of the experts who dedicate their lives to the practice, NOT the average student!

Most yoga exercises are gentle to begin with. One of the main ideas in our yoga classes was that you should not pay attention to anyone else in the class and always work at a pace and level that feels comfortable for you. I loved this concept!

Ahhhhh….Stress Relief

Yoga is fantastic for calming the mind and relieving stress.

Those of us with depression and anxiety issues have problems with the stress response of our bodies. Too often we are in a state of fight-or-flight. This reaction is stimulated  at a higher rate than in most individuals and can keep our minds and bodies in a constant state of stress. When stressed our bodies become very tense and we often carry this tension in our necks, shoulders and backs, which can also lead to tension headaches. I’m often achy in these areas. This is in itself can cause more anxiety and worry.

The most blissful way to relieve the pain is with massage which I love but alas can’t afford every week! But yoga is just as effective for relief and, even better, prevents it too!

Main Mental Health Benefits of Yoga

  • Marked stress reduction, therefore reduced anxiety and depression.
  • Improves sleep quality.
  • Encourages present moment awareness which allows us to keep ourselves in a state of calm. This allows for better emotional control- fantastic for Bipolar and Borderline Personality Disorder.
  • Regular practice can improve self esteem and self worth.
  • Breathing techniques provide deep relaxation.
  • Feel more comfortable in our bodies.
  • Release of muscle tension and stiffness providing more peace of mind.
  • If attending classes this is great opportunity to make friends: lots of positive-minded people in yoga classes! Great influence!
  • Releases repressed emotions stored in the body.
  • You can choose energizing yoga practices to relieve depression (mood elevating) eg. Ashtanga and Power Yoga (better if you’re quite fit); or calming yoga practices for anxiety and hypomania (eg. Hatha and Iyengar Yoga- great for the unfit!). Most classes will combine different yoga schools.
  • It is great for grounding, an energetic state we enter that helps us to feel stable and secure.

But the best thing about yoga is you always end a class lying down on the floor relaxing for 5-10 minutes, often with relaxing breathing practice or a meditation. I can’t tell you how great that feels when you’ve just worked your body and have achy muscles! Total bliss! I swear I used to come out of a class feeling like I’d just had an hours massage!

Resources

Dealing With Depression: How Yoga Can Help- yogaatwork.co.uk

Yoga for Anxiety- Yoga Basics

yogafordepression.com

Photo Credit: meepoohfoto via freedigitalphotos.net

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12 thoughts on “Yoga Benefits for Mental Health

  1. Kris

    Rachel- great post! If you really enjoy some of the more calming poses like savasana, you may want to try restorative yoga. It calms the nervous system by putting you in relaxing poses for 5-10 minutes at a time, and is especially useful for those suffering from clinical depression and other mood disorders. I’d recommend reading Amy Weintraub’s “Yoga for Depression.” -Wonderful book for yoga teachers and students alike.

    Reply
    1. rachelmiller1511 Post author

      Hi Kris- thank you so much for visiting my blog and for recommending this book! I will definitely check it out!

      Yoga has helped me a lot in the past and I’m glad I’m returning to it. It can be a bit daunting at first, but I just love the whole idea of working at your own pace and to your level. As much as anything else I think yoga teaches me to be kinder to myself :).

      Thanks again. Rachel x

      Reply
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