Mind Body

Yoga’s Effect on Your Mental Health


Yoga is not just a workout, it’s about working on yourself.


– Mary Glover

What is Yoga?

You’ve heard of it, right? You see signs at the gym, studios popping up on every street corner, and coupons for classes online. Your friends, your mom, and your colleagues are all doing it. It’s all the rage. But what exactly is yoga? Yoga is the personal practice of combining breath, meditation, and movement into a system or series of poses or flows to help guide both the mind and body into a state of harmony and peace. There are at least eleven different styles of yoga; making it both appealing and accessible to a variety of people’s interests, needs, and goals.

Components of a Yoga Practice

There are at least 7 components involved in a yoga practice. Depending on what style yoga you practice, it may involve one, some, or all of these components. It is at the discretion of the instructor, the type of class, and your willingness to incorporate these elements.

  1. Breath
  2. Movement
  3. Stillness
  4. Relaxation
  5. Mediation
  6. Positive Thinking
  7. Mindfulness

Why Do People Practice Yoga?

For the average person, yoga serves as an outlet both physically and mentally. The stressfulness of our everyday culture is filled with deadlines, too little time, modern day technology, and strained relationships. Balancing these complexities of life are only bound to build up and create larger long-term issues. People may choose or be advised to try out a yoga practice if they are suffering from any of the following:

  • Stress
    • Work related
    • Family related
    • Spouse related
    • Friend related
  • Lacking energy and motivation
    • Regardless of the root, an unmotivated and hopeless person might be dealing with feelings of depression, low self-worth, and overall sadness
  • Mid-life crisis
    • Feelings of unhappiness with a current state may elicit losing control and making big decisions about unknown choices and possibilities for the future
  • Changing careers
    • Switching employers, or even career paths, can create worry and fear of the unknown
  • Moving/relocating
    • Moving to a new city can be difficult due to the obvious stressors of physically moving, but also leaving behind a support system of friends and family

The Reasons Why It’s Craveable

To pause and breath, while moving through a series of movements and poses, eases the mind and body. With the calmness obtained from a yoga practice people find that their lives benefit in numerous ways, including:

  • Clear headedness
    • After a yoga practice, people can leave feeling refreshed and aware of their surroundings and internal issues
  • Decision-making/problem solving easiness
  • Energized
  • Calm mind
  • Desire to make other healthy lifestyle choices related to:
    • Sleep
    • Nutrition
    • Bad habits
  • Increased self-control and awareness
  • Increased self-worth and confidence

It is obvious that the effects obtained by practicing yoga can help to answer many of the symptoms and issues a person may be suffering from any personal issues. For most people, it will take the commitment and consistency of an on-going practice to begin to achieve the benefits of yoga in a lasting manner. However, for some people, the benefits can be acquired even after just one class.

Building Strength

Yoga is all about building self-awareness. This self-awareness helps us to build strength in a few ways:

  • Physical strength
    • Our bodies will get stronger and more flexible from practicing yoga
  • Mental Strength
    • The power we give back to our minds after giving it the time to both rest and reflect on our personal and daily struggles
  • Personal Strength
    • Increasing our self-worth and levels of confidence which will impact all aspects of our personal and interpersonal lives
  • Breath control
    • Learning to breathe properly and mindfully is beneficial to our physical and internal bodily functions
    • Being able to adapt healthy breathing practices into our everyday lives can positively impact the way in which we function in society and interact with others
  • Building community
    • Surrounding yourself with others who are also working on similar goals of mind and body strength and positivity is a major benefit of practicing yoga in a group setting
fitness, sport and healthy lifestyle concept - group of people doing yoga seated spinal twist pose in gym or studio

Mental Health Issues & the Yoga Effect

It is estimated that in the United States, roughly 43 million people, or about every 1 in 5 Americans are suffering from some type of mental illness. Many of these people do not have the access to medical insurance which would provide them with the appropriate and adequate therapies and medications to help cope with their illnesses. Enter, yoga… the perfect blend of both mind and body reflections as well as a readily accessible and available form of healing.

There are at least 5 types of mental health issues that can benefit from yoga…

  1. Depression
    1. Many studies have found that practicing yoga is shown to decrease symptoms of depression significantly after only a few months of commited practice
  2. Anxiety
    1. Techniques learned in yoga can help to ease anxiousness
    2. Erin Wiley, a clinical psychotherapist, stated to Newsweek that “it teaches clients that they have control of their stress reaction, gives them a coping skill for when they are overwhelmed, gives them experience in practicing calming down which is helpful for times of distress.”
  3. Eating Disorders
    1. Yoga gives those suffering from eating disorders control over their bodies
    2. Can help to change their attitude and perception of their image
    3. Makes the person not only feel, but become physically stronger
  4. Psychiatric Disorders
    1. Many studies have found that the combination of elements involved in practicing yoga have shown a significant decrease in symptoms of schizophrenia
  5. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
    1. The practice of breath and movement can help to ease stress and anxiety associated with PTSD
    2. Wiley also noted that “this leads to lower incidence of drug and alcohol abuse, or other self-medication behaviors.”

Why Not Try…

The benefits of yoga reach a broader spectrum than just for the everyday fitness individual. These benefits can reach out to a population of people suffering from much more serious mental issues and complexities. Yoga provides a time for self-reflection coupled with either the movement or stillness of the body. It is important to be open to alternative types of healing, especially if you or someone you know does not have the access to other means of therapy.

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