July 18, 2024
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Article Features/Columns

8 WAYS YOGA CAN HELP YOU IMPROVE YOUR MENTAL HEALTH

Words: Michael DeHoyos

Most of us are aware that if we don’t take care of our physical health, we can put ourselves at risk of all kinds of illnesses and disorders. By getting out and exercising regularly, as well as eating well, we can take care of our physical health. What about mental health, though? It’s something that’s harder to take care of, as there’s no obvious way to take care of it. With people under more stress and strain than ever before, it’s harder to find ways to stay mentally healthy.

BOOST YOUR CONENTRATION AND FOCUS

For so many people, it’s hard to stay focused in
daily life. There’s so much going on and you’re meant to be handling it all. What can you do to stay ahead of the curve? Many people reach burnout as they try and stay ahead of their workloads and their social obligations, without taking any time out for themselves. That’s not going to help your mental health in the long run, though.

When you take part in yoga though, you’ll actually boost your concentration and focus as you’ll need to focus during your session. According to a 2011 study done by the National Centre for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), the unification of the physical body, breath, and concentration go hand-in-hand during yoga, as they help clear blockages in your energy channels so that you feel more balanced. Imagine having to do a tree pose. It’s actually very hard to think of anything else as you aim to keep your balance as you do so. You’ll be able to clear your thoughts and really think about what you’re doing, making it much easier to focus on everyday life.

MAINTAIN BRAIN HEALTH

There’s lots of talk of ‘keeping your brain young’ but what does that mean exactly? Essentially, staying active and maintaining brain health will help keep it young and resilient, well into old age. That’s something you want to be looking into, especially if you want to stave off conditions like dementia. “Yoga is an excellent way to maintain brain health, as it helps improve brain function,” says Jenny Wilde, a health writer with 1 Day 2 Write and Write My X. “Studies have shown it’s helpful at all ages, and the sooner you start, the better. In fact, Harvard Health Publishing suggests that yoga helps brain cells make new connections and improve cognitive skills like memory and learning.” If you want to improve your overall brain health, yoga is an excellent tool to have.

IMPROVE YOUR RELATIONSHIPS

Yes, really. As you continue practising yoga, you’ll find that you’re becoming calmer and more relaxed in your everyday life. That has a lot of benefits, such as helping you keep your cool when things go wrong, or deal with issues at work without getting too stressed out.

The same goes for your relationships. When you’re already on edge, it’s very easy to snap at your loved ones or treat them less than compassionately. By doing yoga, you’ll be more centred and find it easier to meet them in the middle. That will help improve those relationships in the long term.

RELEASE STRESS THROGH YOGA

When you think of releasing stress through physical activity, you’ll think of something more active and strenuous, such as a soccer game or other sports. However, you can absolutely release stress through yoga, and it’s something anyone can do. When you practice yoga, you’re connecting mindfully with
your body and moving it in a mindful way. It’s also worth looking at how yoga works on a spiritual level. When you do yoga, you’re shifting energy through your chakras, and so helping move those energetic blockages. That’s often why you feel so much better after a session. No matter the reason, yoga will always help you decrease stress. That’s why it’s such a popular pastime for those with busy lives.

HELP WITH ANXIETY AND DEPRESSIONS

There are so many people who will have to deal with anxiety or depression at some point in their lives. As a person living in the modern world, there’s no denying that you’re going to struggle at some point. Many who are living with depression and anxiety are turning to yoga, as it offers a lot of help in combating these conditions. This is because yoga combines many things into each session. For example, you’ll get exercise, meditation, relaxation, and socialisation if you do it in a group. As mentioned above, you’re working to regulate your stress response system, which helps you stay in the present. That’s something that helps bring balance to your life, allowing you to stay in the here and now and not focus on the negative things that you’re experiencing.

GET OUT OF FIGHT OR FLIGHT

You are probably aware of the ‘fight or flight’ response, where a person either runs away or stops and fights in the face of danger. If you’re someone that suffers from anxiety, you know the feeling all too well. Being stuck in ‘fight or flight’ is exhausting, and isn’t good for either your mental or physical health. However, as you have anxiety, it’s so difficult to get into a relaxed state. That’s where yoga can help. When you practice yoga, you’ll be able to move out of the ‘fight or flight’ response, which comes from the sympathetic nervous system, to the ‘rest and digest’ state, which is associated with the parasympathetic nervous system. According to Dragonfly, yoga helps you deal with fight or flight through meditation and a calm spirit. So, as you’re starting your yoga session and start breathing deeply, you’ll be able to calm down your nervous system and start feeling more relaxed.

CONTROL YOUR PHYSICAL HEALTH

As you may already know, your physical and mental
health are linked. As such, if you’re struggling with your mental health, then your physical health will suffer, too. That’s something that you want to avoid if at all possible. Luckily, yoga has some real positive physical effects that will help with your mental health. “Yoga can help reduce your heart rate, respiration rate, and blood pressure,” says Paula Cowen, a yoga blogger from Brit Student and Next Coursework. “As such, that’s going to have a real effect on your mental health.” When you’re reducing your heart rate, you’re going to feel much calmer overall. As such, you’re going to feel so much better after every session. Plus, yoga allows you to do other types of exercise. According to The Good Body, 75% of yoga practitioners are able to do additional exercises like running, cycling, and group sports. Plenty of exercise is possible when you take up yoga!

YOGA CAN HELP WITH PTSD

Finally, we’ve seen how yoga can help with common mental health conditions, but what about more serious conditions, such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder? Of course, yoga isn’t the cure-all for issues like these, but it can seriously help those with the disorder, combat the symptoms and live calmer and happier lives. This works in the same way yoga helps with stress. As you practice yoga, you’ll be reducing your heart rate along with focusing on the here and now. When you do this, you’re training yourself to focus on the present in a calmer state. Studies have shown that yoga can help improve sleep, reduce stress, and increase resilience for those with PTSD. Furthermore, according to NCBI, yoga has been shown to reduce the effects of PTSD-related physiological episodes by improving body awareness and somatic regulation. As you can see, yoga can help your mental health in myriad different ways. Whether you’re dealing with too much stress, anxiety or depression, or even more serious disorders, yoga can help you cope with it and start finding a path forward.

Michael DeHoyos is a lifestyle writer and editor for PhD Kingdom and Write My Case Study. He works with companies to improve marketing strategies and submits blogs on various topics to numerous sites and publications. He’s also a staff writer for Origin Writings.

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