The number of people who practice yoga is steadily increasing. The UN News reports that 2 billion people across the globe do yoga. Yoga practitioner in the US have also exhibited an increase in their numbers. As of 2016, there are 36 million yogis in the country. Of these, 70% are women. Not so surprisingly, men who practice yoga have more than doubled as statistics show them jumping from 4 million to 10 million between 2012-16. While the physical benefits might be expected, the mental health benefits of yoga might come as a surprise for some.
Yoga is an ancient practice that provides emotional, mental, and physical health wellbeing. It also promotes spiritual development that culminates in improved morals such as enhanced compassion that betters the sense of volunteering and giving to the community. A survey by the Yoga Journal and Yoga Alliance reveal that yogis show a friendly behavior. Furthermore, 56% of the respondents report that yoga helps take down their stress levels. Another 86% confirm mental clarity achieved with yoga sessions.
Mental health benefits of yoga
Yoga teacher and licensed psychotherapist, Ashley Turner remarks, “Yoga is a psychology — the whole practice helps us work with the nature of the mind, the nature of being a human, how emotions live in our bodies, how they affect our behavior and our minds.” It improves mental health in more ways than one. Not only does yoga reduce stress but it also enhances body awareness, cuts back muscle tension, inflammation, and strain, calms the nervous system, and boosts concentration and attention.
Here is an in-depth look at how yoga improves yoga mental well-being:
Enhances psychological well-being
The British Psychological Society points out that yoga forges a link between the mind and body. In doing so, you become more aware of your body and breath. Such a work approach helps to quell the negative and burdening thoughts that pollute your mind. You are also able to relieve worries with it. Moreover, the breathing exercises concerned with yoga help to curb mental strain, which reduces tension.
Improved sleep with yoga practice is well-documented among the mental health benefits of yoga. A review article that scrutinizes alternative approaches to treating insomnia credits yoga as an efficient solution. Tamal Dodge, director of the Tamal Yoga School, advises further. He says, “When experiencing insomnia, practice relaxing asanas or postures, such as forward fold (uttanasana) or lying on your back with your feet up the wall. This will help with circulation as well as calming your body and, most importantly, your mind.”
Not only does yoga chip in mental well-being but it also enhances memory retention. It is common for small bits of information to sleep from your mind. Such slips in memory are aggravated due to stress, increased workload, and aging. Yoga works to reduce psychological stress alongside reducing physical tension. This allows your mind to better organize information and recall things quickly. Yoga encourages improved cognitive performance by clearing your mind and instilling a sense of peace and calm that facilitates better use of your mental capabilities.
Helps with PTSD
Research reveals that yoga is an effective adjunction treatment plan for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The research studied took a pool of 38 female participants. The control group did not receive any yoga-based intervention, whereas, the other group practiced yoga. Participants belonging to the yoga group exhibited a significant reduction in their PTSD symptoms as compared with those that didn’t do any yoga.
Improves body image
Yoga encourages a sense of inner awareness such that your attention goes to your body’s abilities. It also forms a strong bond between the mind and body. Surveys confirm that such action plan adopted by yoga practice improves the awareness of your body. It is for these reasons that yoga is used as an intervention in the cases of eating disorders and programs that motivate the development of strong sense of self-esteem. On a side note, yoga makes you more mindful, which also encourages mindful eating and subsequent weight loss. All these factors add up to improve your psychological well-being, as self-satisfaction antes up.
Sharpened focus falls within the ambit of mental health benefits of yoga too. It encourages a clutter-free, peaceful, and quiet mind that lives more in the present moment. Some yoga techniques stimulate the brain and nervous system’s connectivity. This improves mental concentration. Also, a clear mind that is more mindful is able to better process information and focus on the task at hand.
Yoga calms your brain and the nervous system. Resultantly, the brain is not bogged down by pessimism and lives more in the moment. Such a present-moment awareness is termed as mindfulness. It prevents your mind from crushing under the weight of the past or the worries of the future. Resultantly, you are able to better harness your mental resources, learn more, process greater bulk of information, hold more knowledge, and update your knowledge bank as well. Mindfulness boosts several other benefits as well.
Reduces depression and depression
Yoga provides a powerful toolkit for improving depression. Some of the techniques that work as a means to this end include relaxation techniques, exercise, meditation, and even improving your social life. It also lessens perceived stress and anxiety, which aids in modulating the body’s stress response system. It also calms that physiological arousal that leads to easing respiration and decreasing heart rate.
Lessens pain sensation
Although yoga cannot de-root the source of pain itself but research highlights that it soothes the sensation of pain. This translates into yogis feeling lesser pain in comparison with other non-yoga practicing folks. Such an effect of yoga correlates with improved stress response of the body. Researchers from the University of Utah noted that people with a poor body response to stress felt more pain than the yogis. The study results concluded that by regulating stress response of the body, yoga empowers its practitioners with their pain response too.
10. Helps prevent mental disorders in adolescents
Teenage is a sensitive age and an attractive time for numerous psychiatric conditions to find their young victims. Since an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of care, it is imperative to undertake preventative measures. Yoga is championed as a step that helps cut down the odds of onset of such mental health concerns. A study published in the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics confirms this. Yoga helped the participant teens by allowing them to better control their anger and reduced their anxiety levels. Participants also exhibited an improved mood, better resilience, and increased mindfulness. All these factors help to cut down the risk of developing mental health conditions.
11. Helps with reducing symptoms of several psychiatric conditions
Psychology Today outlines that yoga is beneficial in treating the symptoms of several mental disorders. These include depression, schizophrenia, sleep disorders, hyperactivity, and attention deficiency. Yoga also aims at keeping the levels of GABA up. This chemical is responsible for regulating nerve activity. Low levels of GABA are related to anxiety disorders, therefore, by improving its concentration, yoga is able to help with anxiety disorders too. Moreover, yoga plays a potent role in improving schizophrenia symptoms when it is paired with drug therapy.