There’s something truly amazing about what yoga can do to your state of mind. I personally have suffered anxiety throughout my early twenties which is a result of things that were outside of my control, alongside some poor life choices.
In order to bring my life back to some form of balance, I was frantically seeking answers, and alongside running one that helps me a lot is yoga. The art of being present, whilst being able to stretch out your muscles brings a sense of joy and fulfilment. It wasn’t until I became a lot more interested in the topic and doing research that this amazing feeling is the release of Endorphins.
Endorphins are the feel-good chemicals in our brains that we often feel after an intense workout or run. Research has suggested that yoga can decrease stress markers and increase endorphins in your body. This is not strange at all considering that yoga is known for its relaxing properties.
This, amongst other reasons, is the powerful connection between yoga and mental health. If we’re feeling happy and grateful then we’re generally in a good sense of wellbeing. In this post, I’d like to bring more attention to yoga and how it can assist with mental health challenges that we’re facing in this fast-paced constantly changing world.
7 Powerful Connections Between Yoga And Mental Health
Below is a list of popular, researched connections between yoga and mental health.
1. Anxiety Relief
We are what we think. This is a notion that I hold dear to me all the time now. When you look at numerous yoga practices that are available in your local area and read the reviews, it will paint a picture of how people feel about yoga through sentiment. Many will speak out that it has provided them with a sense of calm through self-soothing activities such as yoga. Having this “timeout” helps you to not think about the past and the future.
Keeping your mind present, whilst taking time out for yourself is one of the primary benefits of yoga practice. Yoga also releases a chemical which is called GABA (Gamma-aminobutyric acid) and this chemical plays a role in suppressing the neural activity which can lead to anxiety.
2. Stress Relief
It is a fast-paced world and things are constantly changing. Stress is definitely a part of mental health and can lead to more chronic stages of mental health such as anxiety and depression. A study by Utah State University goes into detail about how yoga can provide relief for stress responses as well as anxiety mentioned above.
3. Helps Manage Depression
A study suggests that people with depression may have lower serotonin levels. Serotonin is often referred to as the “happy” chemical of the brain. However, because yoga is so gentle and welcoming it allows for a student to gradually ease into it with their own time.
By practising breathing techniques, thinking positive thoughts, and having that time to ourselves it is possible to improve our current sense of wellbeing which in turn helps manage depression.
4. Improves Our Energy Levels
Having that timeout, practising yoga will improve our energy levels. By stretching our body out constantly and moving this machine known as a human we improve our energy levels. Improving our energy levels will generally give us the motivation to go out and do more things such as other forms of physical exercise.
5. Relaxes Our Body And Mind
When we practice yoga, our body will start to remove tension buildup throughout the day and our mind will be more clear as we become more present. When we relax our bodies we increase the supply of blood and nutrients to the muscle. Releasing all this tension and feeling the flow of energy throughout our bodies supports mental health challenges.
6. Improves Our Breathing
When you practice yoga, you are also practising a form of breathing. One popular form of this is Ujjayi breathing. You breathe through the lower lobes of your lungs, people who have anxiety tend to breathe through the chest which is known as shallow breathing.
The lower level breathing helps your parasympathetic nervous system balance out the acidity which in turn improves your overall health and wellbeing.
7. Trying New Things Helps!
I added this one personally. For me, I had a lot of problems because I always live a certain style of life. It wasn’t until I gave other things a chance such as yoga and running that I was able to see different parts of the world. Having a hobby, or generally trying new things keeps your brain stimulated and helps you switch off at the end of a day. I feel that keeping busy with things that improve my health keeps my mind of any anxious thoughts and helps me remain present.
There are a lot of studies, and plenty of people to tell you from personal experiences how much yoga can help with stress, anxiety, and depression. Because Yoga is such a forgiving and gentle form of exercise, anyone can get involved no matter your skill level.
If you’re new yoga or looking to start out then feel free to check out my guide on the best yoga mat for beginners. The most important thing to remember is that everyone has to start out somewhere and if you are having your own battle with mental health, then give yoga a go.
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Marko Rakic is a trail runner from Sydney, Australia. He is the lead writer for his blog. When he’s not doing laps around Sydney you will find Marko writing on his health and fitness blog, The Ultimate Primate. Marko believes that through fitness and healthy living that we can all live a happier life and wants to send that message across.