SIX WAYS YOGA BENEFITS MENTAL HEALTH
When most people think about yoga, they tend to consider the physical benefits. It’s well-established that practicing yoga can improve mobility, increase flexibility, and decrease muscle stiffness.
However, not enough is mentioned about the significant mental health benefits associated with yoga. There have been numerous studies conducted that indicate yoga could play a promising role in improving mental health.
ONE Reduce Symptoms of Stress.
A study published in the US National Library of Medicine (1) concluded that practicing yoga helps to reduce symptoms of stress. The study was conducted on people not taking antidepressant medications and indicated that the levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, dropped significantly by the end of treatments. High cortisol levels in the system are known to cause stress, which is also a major factor in many depressive illnesses.
“The practice can play a strong role in preventing the onset of stress-related mental illnesses.”
TWO Prevent the Onset of Some Mental Illnesses.
While most studies focused on the efficacy of yoga on reducing existing symptoms of mental health, there are also indications that the practice can play a strong role in preventing the onset of stress-related mental illnesses. High cortisol levels associated with uncontrolled stress can lead to the onset of depression and can worsen symptoms associated with anxiety and panic disorders.
“…participants experienced a reduction in the amount of time it took them to fall asleep, but also increased the total sleep time they got.”
THREE Improve Sleep Quality.
Researchers at the Harvard Medical School revealed that practicing yoga on a regular basis can improve quality of sleep. The results of the study showed that participants experienced a reduction in the amount of time it took them to fall asleep, but also increased the total sleep time they got. The research findings are promising, especially given the fact that 25% of US adults take sleep medications.
FOUR Relieve Symptoms of Anxiety and Depression.
Research from the Duke University School of Medicine that was published in the journal Frontiers in Psychiatry (2) indicated that yoga was effective for relieving the symptoms of anxiety and mild clinical depression, even when the participants of the study were not taking antidepressant medications.
The study also found that people who maintained twice-weekly yoga practice over a period of eight weeks also experienced reduced feelings of fatigue throughout the day. Participants also reported feeling an enhanced sense of quality of life, which mirrored a noticeable reduction in cortisol levels.
FIVE Improve Memory and Concentration
A report published by the University of Vermont (3) showed that yoga has been perceived to improve symptoms of ADHD in children. Specific yoga poses and breathing techniques designed to be suitable for children can help to improve attention span and listening skills. Children who practice mindfulness meditation techniques associated with yoga experienced improved relationships with parents or guardians and better peer interactions.
“…improve flexibility and mobility, enhance muscle tone, build muscle strength…”
SIX Boost Self-Esteem
An article published by the Harvard Medical School (4) showed that yoga helps to improve body image. Surveys found that those people who practiced yoga regularly were more satisfied with and less critical of their bodies. The stretches and the poses associated with yoga help to improve flexibility and mobility, enhance muscle tone, build muscle strength, and boost fitness using low-impact exercise, all of which contribute towards an increased level of self-esteem.
“…there are many significant physical and spiritual benefits to be gained from the practice too.”
Yoga offers so many prominent benefits to mental health, but there are many significant physical and spiritual benefits to be gained from the practice too. The holistic combination of mind and body practices that are such an integral part of yoga clearly has an enormous amount of potential to help people in ways far beyond the benefits of simple stretching.
- US National Library of Medicine: Cortisol and Antidepressant Effects of Yoga: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3768222/
- Frontiers in Psychiatry: http://journal.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/fpsyt.2012.00117/abstract
- University of Vermont: Yoga Therapy and Children with ADHD: http://www.uvm.edu/~cdci/tripscy/localpdf/Yoga_Benefits_ADHD.pdf
- Harvard Health: Yoga Benefits Beyond the Mat: http://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/yoga-benefits-beyond-the-mat