Many people who have a vague knowledge of yoga, and have never really studied it in any detail, assume that it is an activity that is done purely for the physical benefits it can offer. It is fair to say that is understandable given the number of articles, books, and videos which highlight several physical reasons for doing yoga such as improved flexibility and toning muscles, for example.
While the physical benefits are very welcome it would be remiss not to also consider the large number of mental benefits that yoga can also impart. In fact, if you were to count up all of the mental benefits a case could be made that someone doing yoga can expect their mental health to be more positively impacted, than their physical health.
New Insights and Encouragement to Start
In this article, we are going to take a closer look at some of the most important metal benefits of doing yoga. If you already do yoga then hopefully this will give you a renewed passion for it, with the knowledge that you are promoting the health of both body and mind with each session.
If you have not yet started doing yoga, but have been thinking about doing so, then we trust seeing how much your mental health can benefit will give you the final encouragement to start.
On the subject of getting started, one of the most popular ways to do so is by following a yoga video program at home. This allows to get started in the comfort of your own home, and at a pace that suits your daily life.
A very popular program is the ‘Yoga Burn Challenge,’ which is a 12-week yoga program created by internationally certified yoga instructor, Zoe Bray-Cotton. Zoe’s yoga programs have been followed by over 1 million yoga students around the world, so they are obviously very popular.
Yoga Helping to Combat Depression
Depression is not only a very widespread mental condition, but it is also one of the most debilitating too. We can all suffer from short periods of mild depression from time to time such as when we are feeling low and have what some people term the ‘blues.’
At the other end of the scale are those who suffer chronic depression and for whom every day seems like a curse. While those with more serious cases of depression should certainly seek professional help and counseling, they, and others who have depression at all levels, could benefit from yoga.
Many yoga poses and movements encourage us to focus on our breath and to breathe in a slow and purposeful way. This awareness of our breath, and the focusing upon it, help increase our awareness of the present moment. This can often allow people to be more aware of their present feelings, especially those of a negative nature.
This awareness provides a platform from which the person can better understand their condition. Often, this will mean that when they have a counselling session, they are more able to expand upon how they are feeling which allows them, and their therapist, to move forward in bringing their depression under control.
Yoga Helping to Reduce Anxiety and Stress
Anxiety and stress often go hand in hand and whether you identify with one or both of them as something you suffer from, the end result is a condition which is far from pleasant. Anxiety and stress often operate with a snowball effect in everyday situations in which someone should normally be able to deal with calmly, instead of becoming frustrated, angry, and in extreme cases having a full-blown panic attack.
With yoga, the emphasis is often upon poses and routines which encourage calmness, stillness, and relaxation. As someone practices those routines, they can soon learn that they can switch their mind to those same states at will, even if they are not sitting on a yoga mat, or at their yoga class.
Yoga can also help someone suffering from excess anxiety to better understand and control their ‘fight or flight’ response. This is the instinctive reactions of our parasympathetic nervous system when there is a perceived danger. This often occurs, even when there is no real danger present, but the person still goes into an anxious state.
Yoga allows someone to recognize, and more importantly to dial in to this, so instead of fight or flight, they induce a state of relaxation
Yoga Helping to Promote Good Sleep
Sleep is something we often take for granted and can be seen simply as the thing we do between nighttime and the morning. However, many of you will already know that sleep, or more accurately, ‘good sleep,’ is essential to our mental well-being. If you try to go to sleep while stressed or anxious, it can often take hours as your mind is constantly going over whatever is troubling you, be that one issue or several.
Doing a yoga session just before you go to bed can help you relax, and more specifically it can quieten your mind so that all those thoughts racing around in there are muted for the moment. Often yoga can help you focus on the present moment and as at that very moment you are in a calm state, it helps you go to sleep quicker when you get into bed.
Yoga Helping Improve Brain Function
While yoga is unlikely to turn you into a super genius, many studies have shown that it can improve several brain functions. These include reasoning, problem-solving skills, memory and decision making. The basis for these is that doing yoga helps increase levels of cortisol which is an essential element of growth in the somatosensory and hippocampus regions of your brain.
There has also been research which measured reaction times and accuracy amongst two groups of people. Those who undertook yoga sessions of just 20 minutes performed better than those who undertook basic aerobic exercises.
If you are new to yoga or unsure what yoga routines and poses you can do at home, then it may help you to follow a yoga program. One which is highly recommended, and extremely popular, is the ‘Yoga Burn Challenge.’
The core program consists of 15 videos and the yoga lessons are presented by internationally certified yoga trainer, Zoe Bray-Cotton. The beauty of this program is that it can benefit both your physical and your mental health.