Mental health refers to the emotional and psychological aspects of a person. It may appear strange to some that yoga can help with mental health. When you’re mentally healthy it would generally mean that you are using your psychological and emotional capabilities to function well in your social environment and go through your daily routine with little or no difficulty.
At times when a person experiences something negative in their life, they increase their risk of experiencing mental health problems such as anxiety and depression. There are different ways to strengthen one’s mental health and yoga is one of those proven mind-body practices that bring about positive results.
Yoga can be very beneficial for both warding off and overcoming the symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Yoga for Anxiety
The adverse effects of anxiety are greatly magnified when a person remains sedentary and refuses to exercise. As a result, muscle tension continues to build and the ability to breathe effectively can persist. This is compounded by those ruminating negative thoughts that deprive a person of quality sleep.
However, if they participate in yoga they will be better able to access the inner strength that will help them cope with their frustrations, challenges and even their overwhelming fears in life. This is because yoga provides people an opportunity to exercise, perform proper breathing techniques and bring one’s self to a relaxed and meditative state.
All these will be made possible by regularly indulging in yoga exercises such as the Headstand, Standing Forward Bend and Corpse Pose that will help in regulating one’s breath while also releasing the tension which has accumulated in the large muscle groups. These yoga moves and exercises will boost the flushing of fresh blood, nutrients and oxygen to all parts of the body and brain. The result will be positive feelings of well-being and diminished symptoms of anxiety.
Daily practice of yoga will also make it easier for you to bring yourself into a meditative state, so that consciously quieting your mind when your anxiety starts to creep in can be done more easily and as needed.
Yoga for Depression
Practicing different kinds of yoga poses or asanas can help counteract depression because it helps reduce stress hormones in the body such as cortisol and adrenaline. This will then induce what is called the relaxation response. Some yoga teachers will recommend invigorating and dynamic poses such as the Handstand and Warrior II.
Sun Salutations can also be practiced by people who are experiencing depression as it helps them burn off nervous energy while providing their churning mind with something else to focus on. To assist with alleviating the symptoms of depression, it can be very helpful to focus on your own inhalation, as you draw life force into your body. Once you feel that your mind is in a balanced and calmed state, you can then perform any restorative pose such as the Reclining Bound Angle Pose to provide yourself the much-needed rest.
Practicing yoga on a regular basis will help you learn the kind of acceptance you need in handling difficult situations. Sometimes you may find yourself wanting to get out of a certain pose because it is uncomfortable for you, or maybe because it brings up a lot of painful emotions. What needs to be understood is that yoga will teach you to notice how you feel. Then you can use your breath to help you accept your current and perhaps difficult situation.
Although it may make you feel sad, agitated, uncomfortable or angry, you need to learn to weather all these emotions on your mat. In doing so, you will notice that although these difficult emotions arise quickly, they will also fade away faster than you expect.