The Benefits of Yoga for Mental Health and Psychological Well-being
We all know Yoga as a good source to keep fit and achieve a healthy body but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Yoga poses, an essential feature of yoga practice, not only aim at physical but also mental exercise. Here I would specifically focus on how yoga improves mental health and its miraculous effect on your mind.
Here are 5 benefits of Yoga for Mental Health and how Yoga improves Mental Health:
- Increased Self-Awareness: Self-awareness is the knowledge about your thoughts, feelings and actions. The inherent aim of yoga is to help you gain self-awareness through mind-body connection. Yoga practice begins at the physical level by practicing yoga poses/asanas and at the same time gaining control over your breathing; reaching a level where you can practice yoga poses in good sync with your breathing.
This sync provides a fountain of new energies within you and an improved level of self -awareness both at the mental and physical level. You would begin to understand your body better, your thoughts better and your feelings better.
In addition, imbibing the yoga philosophy and meditation in your life actively, will gradually clear your mind of unwanted and unproductive thinking, channelising it towards enhanced self awareness and as a result better control on your life.
Through this enhanced understanding, you get a good perspective on self and others and your responses become healthier. In short, you begin to feel more confident about yourself with improved self esteem…just comfortable in your skin. Some good yoga poses for self-awareness are:
- Wheel Pose (Chakrasana)
- Dancer’s Pose (Natarajasana)
- Warrior II (Virabhadrasana II)
- Promotes Sleep Quality: Having trouble sleeping, try yoga. The relaxing properties of yoga makes it an indispensable tool for a better sleep. Yoga has been proven to enhance sleep quality. Do it as a routine practice or just before sleeping, your mind and body will love it. The best yoga poses for sleeping are:
- Child’s Pose (Balasana)
- Supported Half Frog Pose (ArdhaBhekasana)
- Helps Relieve Stress: Adding yoga practice to your routine is a good way to defeat the effects of daily stress and not to let stress pile up. Often, we neglect daily stressors and then eventually face the piled-up stress overtime. This piled up stress can prove to be hazardous not just for your mental peace but also physical health.
Practising yoga everyday, gives you an opportunity to relieve each day’s stress and not carry it forward. Yoga helps you connect with your inner peaceful being and by doing so helps to negate the harmful effect of everyday stressors on your psyche. Some of the best yoga poses for stress are:
- Wide-Angle Standing Forward Bend (PrasaritaPadottanasana)
- Two-Legged Inverted Staff Pose (DwiPadaViparitaDandasana)
- Child's Pose (Balasana)
- Helps Reduce Anxiety: Research shows yoga to be effective in reducing anxiety. Yoga shifts the mind from the fight-or-flight response to a relaxed bodily state. It helps to move the body from the sympathetic nervous system to the parasympathetic nervous system, that is from a stressful state to a more calm and relaxed state. The activity of GABA, a chemical that regulates brain activity, has also been shown to increase by yoga practice.
Anxiety makes our body hyper and Yoga has just the opposite effect on us. While the anxious thoughts throw you into a state of uneasiness, Yoga will pull your mind back to the relaxed state, easing the anxiety. How effective can Yoga be to manage your anxiety! Just add it to your daily routine following these simple Yoga poses for anxiety:
- Mountain Pose With Arms Overhead (UrdhvaHastasana in Tadasana)
- Paschimottanasana to Halasana (Seated Forward Bend to Plow Pose)
- Helps Fight Depression: Like anxiety, yoga has also been found effective in addressing the symptoms of depression. Practising yoga, both yogic postures and philosophy, requires a lot of concentration and awareness and as a result yoga practice sets the body into an auto-awareness mode. Our thoughts start channelising instead of running wild.
The practice of Asanas tames the mind from wondering and helping it to focus on the task. With regular practice, your thoughts and mind get into the habit of contained thinking, thereby helping you to tackle negative thoughts (hallmark of depression).
Some Yoga poses for depression are:
- Downward-Facing Dog (AdhoMukhaShvanasana)
- Mountain Pose With Arms Overhead (UrdhvaHastasana in Tadasana)
Do Yoga Everyday because…
The benefits are many. Starting with You. When you start Yoga practice, you start connecting with Yourself…that is your Core Self. This investment in self is indeed a very rewarding step to take, as yoga doesn’t change you, it Transforms you.
You would experience not only a better physical health but also (more than that) a mental strength. How this mental strength can positively touch and change each aspect of your life such as relationships, habits, outlook, thoughts and almost everything that is a part of your life. Yoga practice and its benefits on mind and mental health can be compared to a light that starts encapsulating your thoughts, actions and behaviour and makes you radiate holistically.
However, you can only have these benefits, if you take the first and foremost step of practising yoga. This leads us to the question:
How to start Yoga practice as a beginner?
Take it slow and start with a 30 minutes session everyday, preferably morning but suit yourself. As a beginner, this easy 30-minute yoga session may help you to fall into the habit of yoga practice:
Step 1: Work on some breathing exercises called Pranayama for 10 minutes.
Step2: This should be followed by Bhramari/ Bee breathing technique for 2-3 minutes.
Step 3: Five cycles of Sun salutations for 10 minutes (to start with).
Step 4: Corpse Pose for 5 minutes.
Step 5: Bhramari/ Bee breathing technique again for the 2-3 minutes.
However, it is much recommended that you take your doctor’s advice before any strenuous exercise and take yoga sessions under a trained and certified yoga teacher.
1. Yoga is not just good for your physical health, but in fact benefits your mental health in a tremendous way.
2. Yoga helps you to increase self-awareness i.e. the inherent knowledge about your thoughts, feelings and actions.
3. Yoga actively helps relieve everyday stress by restoring your body to a relaxed state.
4. Yoga helps reduce anxiety by shifting the body from fight-or-flight response to a relaxed body state.
5. Yoga helps fight depression by helping you minding the negative thoughts that cause depressive symptoms and helps channelise the mind towards positive aspects of life.
Have you experienced more benefits of Yoga on Mental and Emotional Health? We would love to hear in the comments below :)