Yoga has many benefits on our mental heath, including the ability to lower anxiety and depression through movement, breathing and awareness of bodily sensations. Practicing yoga helps to increase awareness of internal states and reorganize physiological responses connected to symptoms. Originating in India, yoga is a practice designed to create a sense of well-being, improve self-confidence and efficiency, increase attentiveness and provide an optimistic outlook. Comprised of physical and mental disciplines, yoga improves the body’s sense of embodiment and awareness.
The Therapeutic Benefits of Yoga for Mental Health
Case studies have reported that yoga, when used in therapy, can allow individuals to become in tune with their bodies and overcome the emotional burdens associated with mental health disorders. Encouraging evidence has emerged regarding the therapeutic potential of yoga as an emotional and mood regulator.
Yoga for Anxiety
Using yoga as a mindfulness technique can help an individual with anxiety to concentrate on the present moment and allow these obsessive thoughts to pass by engaging in a more self-loving activity. Practicing yoga poses and breathing exercises on a daily basis can help reduce the stress and negative thoughts. Many mental health treatment centers use yoga-based therapy as an alternative therapeutic approach for the treatment.
Yoga for Depression
Studies have shown that yoga can be a helpful technique in reducing symptoms of depression. Through yoga, participants were able to improve their depression symptoms. This is likely due to the reduction in stress that yoga can have, and the endorphins that certain poses can produce. Yoga asanas (or flows) also increase levels of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a neurotransmitter associated with depression and anxiety. With consistent yoga practice, GABA levels can increase.
Can Yoga Be Harmful to Mental Health?
While yoga has many positive aspects, relying on yoga’s promise of emotional and spiritual healing can be perilous. Being drawn to yoga as a means of self-care, many people instead may find reinforcement for dangerous control behaviors in a yoga studio culture that often celebrates thinness, flexibility and perfection of form. Although yoga is known to improve self-awareness and foster the mind-body relationship, in many cases, an individual’s approach to yoga can exasperate obsessive-compulsive tendencies, reinforce unhealthy body ideals and become one more place to disassociate from oneself leading to worsening mental health symptoms and self-esteem.
If you or someone you know needs support surrounding mental health, contact us at Discovery Mood & Anxiety Program for help today.