As a surprisingly strenuous form of exercise, there’s no doubt about the physical health benefits of yoga. But did you know that it also comes with its own diverse set of mental health effects which are unique to it, and not found in any other form of workout?
Psychology has shown that yoga, thanks to its dual aspects of exercise and mindfulness, can have significant positive impacts on your daily mood and mental health. Let’s explore these benefits, and make a case for yoga as a healthy form of therapy.
What makes yoga special?
Yoga sets itself apart from other forms of exercise by integrating physical activity with mindfulness meditation and breathing exercises.
With mindfulness meditation, yoga practitioners pay attention to every sensation in their body, drawing attention away from the stresses and worries of the day. They become aware of every breath, every heartbeat, and the vibration of every muscle fiber.
Breathing exercises are also a big component of yoga, filling yoga practitioners’ lungs with the oxygen that’s necessary to keep up the poses of asana. It also helps balance the emotions, as the activity is moved to more complex, less instinctual parts of the brain.
How does yoga work to improve your mood? 1. Yoga can relieve stress.
A variety of studies shows that practicing yoga on a regular basis can reduce the chronic levels of the stress hormone cortisol. This has been attributed to the relaxing effect of yoga’s breathing exercises and the mindfulness meditation, along with the regular workouts you get in general. Stress levels are a huge component of our daily mood, and reducing it can only have positive benefits.
2. Yoga can help you relax.
More than just reducing how stressed you are, yoga can bring you to a profoundly relaxed state. Studies have shown that yoga has uniquely reductive effects on anxiety compared to other workouts.
One study demonstrated increased GABA levels in yoga practitioners, which could help with depression and anxiety.
Practicing yoga can also stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, which creates the relaxation response that lowers heart rate and blood pressure. This dampens the instinctual fight-or-flight response that can cause distress in many people and allows yoga to be used to treat disorders such as PTSD.
3. Yoga helps you become more self-aware.
The very nature of yoga requires practitioners to be mindful of themselves, from head to toe. Yoga forces you to confront your own emotions, both good and bad, but also provides you with the level-headed, relaxed emotional state necessary for you to understand how you feel.
If you practice yoga on a regular basis, you’ll eventually come to terms with many things in your life, and even discover new insights about your feelings and behavior. This self-awareness can help you resolve both internal and interpersonal conflicts.
4. Yoga can help you sleep better.
Treatment of insomnia often involves reducing arousal and stress. That’s why some research has been conducted to determine if the benefits of yoga make it a possible insomnia treatment. Some results show that there’s a positive, statistically significant link between practicing yoga and better sleep quality.
Even if you don’t generally have insomnia, better sleep quality is always a big positive for your daily mood, and yoga can help provide it.
5. Yoga works very well as a complement to other forms of therapy
Whether it’s art therapy, physical therapy, or even occupational therapy, the very holistic nature of yoga has caused doctors to recommend it alongside any form of curative therapy. Yoga by itself has a wide array of benefits, but it can enhance the impact of other forms of therapy when done in conjunction.
6. Yoga can help protect you from injury
Performing yoga poses properly gives you a better awareness of how your muscles work, and over time can improve your balance and range of motion. It also strengthens your tendon, ligaments, and bones. All of these can help you avoid tripping and falling in your daily life, and can also reduce the risk of injury during sports or more intense workout sessions.
Take up yoga as a form of therapy!
Yoga isn’t just a fad – it’s a practice that has thousands of years of history behind it. If you want to use yoga to improve your mental well-being, you should choose a clinic that’s run by people who are intimately aware of its psychological and therapeutic benefits.
If you’re looking for a great place to get started in Melbourne, we’ve got you covered at The Neighbourhood Clinic. Our approaches are fully rooted in the evidence-based science of psychology, and we’ve got an appreciation of the psychosocial requirements of effective therapy. Book an appointment online now and find us in North Fitzroy!