Yoga has a history that spans countless millennia. Nobody is exactly sure how long yoga has been practiced, but that it still exists today is a testament to its soul-fulfilling power. It is estimated that today approximately 30 million Americans practice yoga, which is roughly 10 percent of the population. This means 1 in 10 Americans are familiar with the positive aspects of yoga, and likely utilize it in their daily lives to improve focus and strengthen relationships. There are numerous ways yoga can benefit the body and the mind, but for those who suffer from depression or PTSD, yoga can be especially beneficial. Here’s a look at five ways yoga can benefit your mental health.
1. It Helps You Think Clearly
When you become stressed, it can be difficult to sort through your thoughts. You may feel overwhelmed and confused, and this can make it difficult to get through your tasks for the day. What’s worse is that research has shown when you’re stressed, your thoughts become limited, thinking only in fight-or-flight strategies. This can lead to poor decision-making. For people with PTSD or other stress-related issues, yoga is an excellent path to mental health recovery. Some beneficial yoga tools for someone seeking stress relief are meditation, Savasana (relaxation pose), breathing practices, and focused relaxation.
2. It Relieves Symptoms of Depression
A consistent schedule of yoga can improve depression, as documented on the depression screening scores of regular practitioners. This is because it increases levels of serotonin in the brain while decreasing cortisol. For people who regularly practice yoga, research has shown more activity in the left side of the brain as well as increased immunity to sickness. Another direct benefit of relieving depression is relieving anxiety, as the two are often found together. The best poses for those seeking to control depression are backbends.
3. It Helps You Sleep
Many yoga practitioners will learn what postures and breathing exercises performed before going to bed will help them fall asleep and stay asleep. For those who suffer from insomnia, yoga may be able to help them get to sleep without the aid of medication. When people who have insomnia adopt a daily yoga routine, they fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer than they did before adopting a yoga lifestyle. Some poses that help are Legs Up the Wall, Lying Butterfly, and Corpse Pose. All of these are poses that require little energy and are relaxing to the mind.
4. Yoga Increases Self-Esteem
Because yoga is such a positive energy form of mental and physical exercise, after practicing you’ll have a more positive outlook on your life and how you feel about yourself. Rather than seeking approval from others, the yoga participant seeks approval from one’s self. Serious practitioners will approach yoga as a technique to look inwardly and improve the whole self–not just the body, but the mind as well. Rather than getting caught up in external stimuli, yoga teaches that all of the answers an individual seeks are within them; One must simply trust in their ability to access them.
5. Yoga is Beneficial to Your Relationships
Because yoga focuses on health, healing, and compassion, practitioners of yoga tend to be friendlier and more empathetic toward others. Yoga teaches followers about avoiding harm to others, mentally and physically. Because it teaches to have a better relationship with yourself, the result is a better connection to your inner self, which also gives you a better connection and understanding of others. Asana and pranayama give strength for building relationships.
The healing power of yoga is well-documented. That it has survived a long history and continues to have a strong following today is no coincidence. People who practice yoga are healthier spiritually, physically, and mentally. Yoga is also easily accessible through local studios and online classes. Unlike a gym membership, the only expense you need to invest in yoga is time.