Benefits of Yoga for Mental & Physical Health

yoga for mental health

In the current fast-paced lives that we live, we barely get the time to stop and smell the roses. As a result, the stress of keeping up with the times takes a toll on our mental health. Unfortunately, due to the stigma and the lack of awareness, mental health is often neglected or ignored. Yoga for mental health helps relieve stress.

It gets difficult to find a trained and well-equipped therapist and even more difficult to ensure mental wellness. Thus, to help you in your quest, here is a list of a few easy Yoga poses for mental health.

How Yoga Helps Strengthen Mental Health

You may normally feel exceptionally good after practicing yoga. It brings you mental peace and physically harmonizes your system.

Studies(1) have indicated that those suffering from depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder respond really well to Yoga.

Thus, it comes as no surprise that Yoga and mental health are inter-related. Here are a few Science-backed mental health benefits of Yoga:

  • It shifts your body’s state from the sympathetic to the parasympathetic system. Thus, you cross over from the fight-or-flight state to the rest-and-digest state. Hence, it calms down your system.
  • Yoga boosts the release of GABA(2), a neurotransmitter that inhibits fear caused by anxiety or the stray thoughts that may leave you feeling distressed. In fact, Yoga is more potent than walking(3) when it comes to releasing GABA.
  • Through yoga, one can challenge their irrational beliefs and, in the process, change their habits and behaviors. In a 2014 study(4), it was found that yoga keeps you more focused and helps in regulating the emotions.
  • Yoga gives you the time to introspect and look deep inside your soul. It helps you identify the issues that may be upsetting your mental balance. Once you are aware of the root causes, you could effectively tackle the issue.

Yoga for Mental Health: Useful Poses

Here are a few highly effective yoga poses that can positively influence your mental health.

1. Bhramari Pranayama (Controlled Breathing Exercise – Bee Breathing)

breathing exercise
Image:ShutterStock

“Prana” translates to breathing or the vital energy force that keeps us alive, while “ayama” means to control. Hence, Pranayama literally means the exercise for the control of breath. On the other hand, Bhramari refers to the Indian Black Bee, which is called Bhramari.

Mental Health Benefits of this Yoga Pose

Bhramari Pranayama helps in relieving stress, fatigue, anxiety, and depression. It also helps in getting rid of anger and resultant hypertension and helps restore mental peace.

Steps to Perform this Yoga Pose

  • Sit in a comfortable position and maintain a gentle smile.
  • Close your eyes and pay attention to your body and your breathing patterns.
  • Place your thumb on the cartilage present between your cheek and the ears. This will partially close your ears.
  • Position the index fingers on your temples, middle and ring finger near your nostrils, and your pinkies around your chin.
  • Take a deep breath in and gently press down on the cartilage. While exhaling, let out a deep hum that should reverberate through your body.
  • Repeat the same exercise once you run out of breath.

[Read: Yoga Poses for Stress]

2. Balasana (Child’s Pose)

Balasana
Image:ShutterStock

Balasana, or child’s pose, is a rather comforting yoga asana that also tones your abs, improves digestion, and lower bloating! It is a resting yoga pose that is fairly easy but can also be challenging for some.

Mental Health Benefits of this Yoga Pose

Balasana helps you overcome fatigue and stress. Since it boosts blood circulation, it also relaxes the body and brings down the intensity of anxiety and nervous jitters.

Steps to Perform this Yoga Pose

  • Kneel down on your knees and gently sit on your legs. Keep your spine in an erect position.
  • Slowly start bending forward in a manner until your thigh touches your chest. Lay your palms face-down on the floor above your head.
  • Stop just when your forehead touches the floor and hold this position for a few seconds (if you happen to feel uncomfortable, you may release the pose sooner)

[Read: Yoga Poses for Depression]

3. Viparita Karani (Restorative Pose)

In Sanskrit, Viparita Karani means “Opposite Action.” This yoga pose is a mild inversion pose where you put your legs up against the wall and hold the position for a while. Those who practice yoga on a regular basis can pull off a headstand in this yoga pose.

Mental Health Benefits of this Yoga Pose

Viparita asana can help by offering relief from pain caused by chronic diseases. This pain contributes to bringing down your mental health. It regulates the flow of blood and calms down the anxiety. Additionally, it helps treat insomnia and depression.

Steps to Perform this Yoga Pose

  • Lay on a flat surface with your back against it. Position your hands by your sides, with the palms facing upwards.
  • Slowly raise your legs. If you find yourself losing balance, offer support to your hips by propping your arms there.
  • Keep your legs at a right angle from your torso. You could even rest your legs against a wall. Hold the position for about 10 to 15 minutes.
  • Gently bring your feet down and keep your hands by your side.

[Read: Yoga for Anxiety Control]

4. Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend Pose)

Intense Forward Bending Pose
Image:ShutterStock

Uttanasana literally translates to “Intense Stretching Pose.” Aptly named so, this yoga asana is famous for stretching out your body, especially your hamstrings, hips, and lower back. Let’s see how this yoga pose helps with your mental health.

Mental Health Benefits of this Yoga Pose

The yoga pose relaxes the central nervous system and helps with calming anxiety. It de-stresses you, helps you sleep better, and overcomes fatigue.

Steps to Perform this Yoga Pose

  • Start this yoga pose by standing up straight.
  • Rest your hands on your hips and take a deep breath.
  • Extend your hands outwards at shoulder-level. And bend forward as you exhale.
  • Continue bending until your hands touch the floor. If bending over is discomforting or causing you any health issues, you may hold onto your elbows in place of placing your palms on the floor.
  • Use your core to go back to your regular position.

[Read: Guided Meditation for Relaxation]

5. Shavasana (Corpse Pose)

Shavasana Pose
Image:ShutterStock

The Shavasana is an ideal pose to end your entire yoga session. It helps you meditate and unwind. Executing this asana is so simple that you do not need a yoga instructor for help or instruction.

Mental Health Benefits of this Yoga Pose

Shavasana brings the body in a relaxed state, which is required when you get emotional. The yoga asana improves memory and concentration so you can focus on the task at hand.

Steps to Perform this Yoga Pose

  • Lay down on your back over a flat surface. Try to relax your body and mind.
  • Place your hands on either side of your body. Ensure that the palms are facing upwards.
  • Close your eyes and concentrate on your breathing. If required, count your breaths and isolate the external world around you.
  • Stay in this position for at least 5 minutes.

So go ahead and practice these yoga positions to explore a whole new and positive mental headspace. Whether it is depression, anxiety, stress, or insomnia, regular practice of these yoga asanas can significantly improve your mental health.

Making yoga an integral part of your lifestyle can help you develop good habits and behavior that will enrich your life.

See Also
Yoga for Anxiety

 

In fact, yoga is a natural remedy that will strengthen your mental and physical health and is required for your all-round development. Remember, just as you care about your physical wellbeing, you must also care for your mental wellness.

Thus, do not ignore your mental health, rather, give it the first priority. In addition to practicing yoga regularly, remember to stick to a healthy and balanced diet to supplement your efforts here.

Let us know if you found this article to be helpful, leave us a message in the comments below about what you think!


FAQs

Here are the answers to the common FAQs in respect to the mental health benefits of yoga:

1. How Often Should I Practice Yoga?

For Yoga to have a positive influence over your mental wellbeing, you must practice yoga for at least 30 minutes throughout the week. As you progress, you can extend it to an hour.

2. What Is the Best Time to Practice Yoga?

Early morning is the best time to practice yoga. It is normally advised that you perform the asanas on an empty stomach, in a quiet and comfortable place where you will have minimum distractions. When repeating the exercise, you can practice in the afternoon or evening before dinner.

3. How Does Yoga Combat Stress and Anxiety?

The element of meditation offers a self-soothing mechanism that modulates the stress response by the body. As a result, the physiological arousal gets suppressed, which allows the individual to break out from the vicious cycle of stress and anxiety.

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