Yoga has been a beneficial practice for mental health for centuries, and it continues to be widely practiced and recommended today. Yoga can help improve your mental well-being with things that include stress reduction, emotional balance, anxiety and depression management, Improved focus and concentration, increased self-awareness, better sleep and a mind-body connection.
Yoga incorporates breathing techniques and mindfulness practices that can help activate the body's relaxation response and reduce stress levels. It promotes deep breathing, which slows down the heart rate and calms the nervous system, leading to a greater sense of relaxation and inner peace.
The physical postures (asanas), breathing exercises (pranayama), and meditation in yoga help regulate the stress response system, improves mood, and increases the production of feel-good neurotransmitters in the brain.
Yoga involves focusing the mind on the present moment, whether it's on the breath, a specific posture, or a mantra. Regular yoga practice can enhance your ability to concentrate, sharpen mental clarity, and improve overall cognitive function.
It allows you to become more aware of your emotions, observe them without judgment, and develop a better understanding of their underlying causes. Through yoga, you can learn to respond to your emotions in a more mindful and controlled manner.
It encourages self-reflection and introspection, helping you to become more attuned to your thoughts, feelings, and sensations. This heightened self-awareness can lead to a deeper understanding of yourself, your values, and your desires, ultimately promoting personal growth and self-acceptance.
SIDE NOTE - It’s important to note that while yoga can be beneficial for mental health, it should not replace professional mental health treatment. It can be used as a complementary practice alongside therapy or other recommended treatments.
The neurobiological effects of Yoga has always been an interest of mine and I love to bring this through in my classes. Here are some interesting facts on how yoga can impact your brain in a positive way.
1. Brain structure: Neuroimaging studies have shown that regular yoga practice is associated with structural changes in the brain. For example, increased gray matter volume has been observed in regions such as the hippocampus and the prefrontal cortex. These are associated with memory and emotional regulation, attention, decision-making, and self-awareness. These structural changes may contribute to improved cognitive function and emotional well-being.
2. Stress response: Chronic stress can have detrimental effects on the brain and mental health. Yoga has been found to regulate the body's stress response system, including the sympathetic nervous system. Research suggests that regular yoga practice can reduce the release of stress hormones like cortisol, lower heart rate and blood pressure, and promote a more balanced autonomic nervous system response.
3.GABA levels: Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) is a neurotransmitter that helps regulate brain activity and has an inhibitory effect on anxiety and stress. Studies have shown that yoga practice can increase GABA levels in the brain. Higher GABA levels are associated with improved mood, reduced anxiety, and a greater sense of calm.
4.Mindfulness and attention: Yoga involves cultivating mindfulness and focused attention on the present moment. Functional brain imaging studies have demonstrated that mindfulness meditation, a key component of yoga, can enhance attentional control and activate brain regions associated with self-regulation and introspection.
So here are 7 poses that you can add into your daily routine to help with your mental wellness:
1. Child's Pose (Balasana): This pose is often used as a resting pose and promotes relaxation and a sense of surrender. It can help release tension in the back, shoulders, and neck while calming the mind.
2.Standing Forward Fold (Uttanasana): Forward folds are known to help calm the nervous system and release tension in the body. Standing Forward Fold can be particularly grounding and soothing, helping to relieve stress and anxiety.
3. Legs-Up-the-Wall Pose (Viparita Karani): This gentle inversion involves lying on your back with your legs resting vertically against a wall. It can help improve circulation, reduce swelling in the legs, and induce a sense of calm and relaxation.
4. Corpse Pose (Savasana): Savasana is the final relaxation pose at the end of a yoga practice. It involves lying flat on your back, allowing your body to fully relax and integrate the benefits of the practice. Savasana promotes deep relaxation, stress reduction, and a quieting of the mind.
5. Cat-Cow Pose (Marjaryasana-Bitilasana): This gentle flowing movement between cat and cow poses helps release tension in the spine, promotes flexibility, and encourages a mindful connection between movement and breath. It can be invigorating and help alleviate stress.
6. Bridge Pose (Setu Bandhasana): Bridge pose stretches the front of the body, opens the chest, and strengthens the legs and glutes. It can help relieve anxiety and fatigue, while also promoting a sense of grounding and stability.
7. Tree Pose (Vrikshasana): Tree pose is a balancing pose that requires focus and concentration. It helps improve stability, balance, and mental focus. It can also promote a sense of inner strength and grounding.
These are just a few examples, and there are many other yoga poses that can contribute to mental wellness. It's important to listen to your body, practice within your comfort level, and seek guidance from a qualified yoga instructor if you are new to yoga or have any specific concerns.
Remember, yoga is a holistic practice that combines movement, breath, mindfulness, and self-awareness, and the overall practice, including a combination of poses, is beneficial for mental well-being which contributes to your overall wellbeing.
Sending so much love