The Effect Of Yoga On Mental Health
A sweat-inducing yoga session is great for your muscles, but did you know it’s also great for your mind? We all love feeling the flexibility and challenges a good practice provides our body, but you might be surprised to learn that there’s also a strong link between yoga and mental health. Thanks to both the physical side of yoga and the mind-body component, it’s uniquely positioned to boost your mental health, helping you feel more relaxed, at peace, and happier – the best of all worlds!
Your next downward dog or cobra pose might be just what your mind needs: a mental palate cleanser to the stress of daily life. Read on for everything you need to know about the effect of yoga on mental health.
How Does Yoga Affect Mental Health?
If you’re willing to commit to a regular yoga practice of at least a few days a week, you’ll likely start to notice all sorts of positive changes to your mental health. Below e’ve outlined some of the top ways that yoga can improve your mental health, so get ready to breathe deeply and enjoy some serious zen!
(Note that while yoga is a fantastic exercise and can be a huge benefit to your overall mental wellbeing, it should never replace the care that a doctor or psychologist can provide if you’re experiencing severe mental health concerns.)
1. Helps You Relax
Let’s face it: life is never as relaxing as we’d like. Work can be seriously stressful, with many of us putting in long hours each day. At the same time, we’re juggling finances, friendships, families, and more. It can leave us exhausted and wishing there were more hours in the day.
If you’re looking for a way to unwind after work and feel calmer, many people find that yoga can help. It gives you your own private time after a busy day, allowing you to indulge in some vital self-care and meditation. You’ll soon find that you’re counting on your daily yoga session for the calm and relaxation it provides.
(If you’re really feeling stressed, you might find that a soothing cup of tea after your practice can boost your mind and help you focus as well.)
2. Reduces Anxiety
Do you ever experience anxiety? (If you answered ‘no’, we want to know your secret.) If you’re feeling nervous or worried about something in your life, as most of us do from time to time, it can lead to anything from restlessness to fatigue, or even more serious symptoms like an anxiety attack.
If you’re feeling anxiousness coming on, worrying about it can actually make it worse. Instead, force yourself to take a few deep breaths and move in and out of a few yoga positions. This can help you deescalate the situation and turn your nervous energy into something more calming and soothing.
3. Increases Serotonin Levels
Serotonin is an important hormone in our bodies, as it works to keep our moods stable and also to evoke feelings of happiness and wellbeing. If your body is producing enough serotonin, it’s going to boost your mood and help you feel better.
So, the million-dollar question… Does yoga increase serotonin? You bet! This is because exercise is one of the best ways to increase your levels. If you love yoga and enjoy regular time on the mat, it’s going to keep your moods stable and positive.
4. Yoga Can Help With Depression
Research has shown that yoga can sometimes decrease symptoms of depression, effectively working as an antidepressant. This is because regular yoga can decrease levels of cortisol in your body, a stress hormone that’s associated with depression.
If you’re experiencing depression, talk to your doctor to see if yoga can complement your treatment regime for depression.
5. Improves Your Sleep
When we don’t get enough sleep, it can have a massive impact on mental health. When we’re tired, we’re grumpy, easily agitated, and unable to focus. But on the flipside, if you can improve your sleep, you can usually also improve your moods and energy levels.
Yoga can be a challenging exercise to commit to each day, helping you exert energy and burn calories. After a big workout, you’ll almost always sleep better. So you might find that daily yoga can improve your sleep, helping you hit the pillow and drift off easily each night.
A healthy, balanced diet can help you sleep better as well, as it will help prevent bloating and digestion issues when you’re trying to fall asleep. So good food + good yoga = goodnight!
6. Regular Yoga Can Boost Confidence And Body Image
Do you ever feel like your self-confidence could use a boost? Don’t we all. It can be hard to feel confident sometimes, especially with the constant onslaught of media dictating how an ‘ideal’ body should look.
If you want to feel better about how you look, exercise like yoga can help. You’ll feel more powerful and strong, with your body building up strength to help you accomplish and hold complex yoga poses.
On a scientific level, exercise like yoga releases endorphins, which diminish pains and help you feel happier. This is often why runners get what’s known as a ‘runner's high’ – that amazing feeling you get after a long run. You can get the same results from yoga, helping you feel happier and more confident.
Which Yoga Is Best For Mental Health?
So how can you start enjoying all of these mental health benefits? We’ll let you in on a little secret… No matter what type of yoga you prefer, you can still reap the benefits! The act of moving your body, controlling your breathing, and focusing on an activity are guaranteed to provide mental benefits, as long as you practice at least a few times per week.
Some yogis might feel most calm and serene by doing slow-paced yoga with lots of focus on meditation and intent. However, others might prefer a more physical style, like Vinyasa or power yoga. You can also try to alternate between several types of yoga, depending on your body’s energy levels and how you’re feeling. Your mind and moods are sure to appreciate the amazing benefits that yoga can offer!