3 Ways Yoga Improves Mental Health

3 handy tips to a better lived life.

Yoga 28th Dec, 2020

It is well established that doing exercise releases endorphins, which are chemicals that lift our mood, in fact they are commonly called the happy hormones. In simplified terms, endorphins are our bodies natural pain relievers, designed to help us cope with stress or discomfort. When you are suffering with depression, or other mental health issues, doing exercise like yoga can release those happy hormones and help your mood. Yoga is particularly good, as it combines physical activity, with breathing exercises that help you focus on the present. This is not a replacement to seeking professional help, rather, an excellent way to complement other treatment you may be prescribed.

Physical Activity:

Yoga specifically focuses on mind-body fitness, it involves a combination of muscle activities, or poses and focusing on your breathing, energy and internal awareness. As these exercises start simply for the beginner and have gentle elements at every level, they are often more accessible than other forms of exercise, if you are suffering with mental health issues. The exercise will also release those happy hormones that lift your mood. Even if that is from low, to slightly less low, this could allow you a moment to relax from your mental health issues.

Breathing Exercises:

As yoga encourages you to relax, slow your breathing and focus on the present you can stop being in fight or flight mode and go into rest mode. If you have mental health issues you may be in these modes a lot of the time, due to listening to the critical thoughts many people have. With practice, breathing exercises allow you to temporarily stop these judgemental thinking styles, such as all or nothing (if it’s not perfect, I am a failure). Going into rest mode allows you time off from this stressful thinking. In time, it may allow you space to see when you are being overly critical of yourself and others and react in a more healthy way.

Focussing On The Present:

Taking time for yourself, learning to calm your mind and focus on the now, helps you let go of stress and anxiety. Yoga poses help you focus on what you are doing and nothing else, particularly the many requiring balance. Concentrating on the exercise means you are not doing the many things that people with mental health issues do, such as magnification – overthinking future events out of your control. Perhaps you use critical words like should/must. E.g. I should have done that, I must be an idiot, or they should be doing that, they must think I’m a pushover. All of these judgemental thinking styles are paused by focussing on the present. It gives you time to be calm and perhaps gain a new perspective after your exercise session.

Yoga is not a substitute for professional help, however, it can be an excellent complementary addition to any therapy or prescriptions. In time, it could open up a new group of friends in your classmates, or simply be an activity you look forward to. In addition to potentially improving your mental health, practicing yoga has many long term physical health benefits too and as it can be tailored to any age, this could be an exercise you enjoy for many years to come.

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