Yoga and Mental Health

 

Breathe in...and breathe out. You’re now not only one step closer to saying Namaste, but also to an improved state of mental health. 

 Yoga is renowned for its calming and energizing effects, but is also gaining recognition for its mental health boosting abilities. The ancient body-bending practice kick-starts complex brain processes that make you feel like you can take on the world through the power of inner peace.

How Does It Work?

Yoga’s combination of bending, deep breathing, and focus seems to have the same uplifting effects as some medications for mental disorders, according to a systematic review published in Frontiers In Affective Disorders And Psychosomatic Research.

“In healthy individuals, biomarker studies suggest that yoga influences neurotransmitters, inflammation, oxidative stress, lipids, growth factors, and second messengers, in a manner largely similar to what has been shown for antidepressants and psychotherapy,” the report states.

While the review by doctors Meera Balasubramaniam, MD, Shirley Telles, MBBS, MPhil, PhD, and Murali Doraiswamy, MBBS, FRCP, focused mainly on major psychiatric disorders, the list of yoga's benefits goes on and on. The advantages of incorporating yoga into your lifestyle, as the review states, also hold true for cognition, sleep, and eating disorders.

Why It’s Becoming More Popular

Lovers of the Buddha have practiced yoga for thousands of years, and it shows no signs of slowing down. As yoga has gained more notoriety in popular culture (especially among the celebrity set), it’s no longer surprising to see stores, publications, and clothing lines dedicated to this important component of the wellness industry.

But don’t be intimidated by contortionist gurus in monogrammed apparel; yoga is truly a universal activity that can be adjusted in terms of complexity for people of varying ages and abilities. Your journey toward inner calm is what you make of it.

The Bigger Picture

Depression is cited in the report as a global health crisis, affecting millions of people worldwide. The mental illness can be emotionally and physically crippling, sometimes requiring years of expensive and time-consuming therapy. 

These treatments shouldn’t be disregarded, but the knowledge that those suffering from depression and other mental illnesses can spend a little time each day practicing something low-cost, easy, and enjoyable may bring hope to many people looking for alternative options.

How Can I Reap the Benefits of Yoga?

  • Yoga doesn’t have to be a large-scale production. Take a class with a yoga professional, or pick up your own literature to incorporate.
  • Meditation is a significant component of yoga. When you feel stressed out, take a moment to close your eyes and be in the present.
  • Yoga relies on study to become masterful in the art. Read up on ancient yogic texts and let your mind wander while you relax.
  • Keep a journal of your favorite yoga poses, encouraging thoughts, or any other reminders that you are on the path to a more mindful self.

What Should I Know Before Doing Yoga?

If you are new to yoga, start out with beginner poses and talk to an experienced teacher who can help you find poses that are right for your body. Don’t rush into advanced techniques before you can do them properly and safely. 

Yoga is certainly a benefit for people suffering from a multitude of mental and physical afflictions, but won’t necessarily take away the needs of certain medications and other treatments. Talk to a medical professional about how to safely incorporate yoga into your lifestyle without overlooking more established medical treatments.

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