5 Steps to Improving Mental Health with Yoga

woman performing yoga in an urban setting

5 Steps to Improving Mental Health with Yoga

Yoga isn’t just a passing trend fueled by branded yoga pants and fitness fashion. In fact, the practice has been passed down through generations for over 5,000 years. Throughout history, yoga has represented many different ideas, beliefs, and practices that often contradict each other but the foundation of physical and spirituality activities for inward and outward benefit persevere.

Yoga is split by four different periods. There is pre-classical yoga which was developed by the Indus- Sarasvati in Northern India.This form of yoga entailed sacred texts, mantras, songs, and rituals. During this period the purpose of yoga was for the sacrifice the ego through self-awareness, action, and wisdom for a higher self. Classical Yoga follows, which covers eight different stages of self development towards enlightenment. Post classical yoga birthed Tantra and then Hatha yoga which is is meant to cleanse the body and soul.

Modern Yoga starting in the late 1800’s was brought into western culture where Hatha yoga is most practiced. Hatha while having both physical, mental, and spiritual benefits is in modern day most sought after for exercise. Modern yoga embraces both the spiritual and the physical and it is up to the practitioner which direction to go after.

The original intention of yoga was to bring a person closer to their spiritual nature and find peace in a chaotic world. Practicing yoga has been shown with certainty to improve your mental health and wellbeing as a person navigates their emotions and thoughts. Below will highlight five reasons why a regular practice of yoga has such amazing benefits for your mental health and stability. It’s not as big of a stretch as you think!

Step One: Self Confidence

According to multiple studies, standing sequences in yoga help increase the body’s energy and therefore raise a sense of being empowered, positive, and in control. Practicing yoga teaches you to be less critical and more accepting of yourself. This helps you better appreciate your strengths and capabilities versus being overly critical and obsessive over flaws. Not only will you strengthen your mentality but there are also clear benefits for your body. You will gain strength and muscle tone which will better your overall shape. Improved confidence in one’s abilities will help overcome feelings of insecurity.

Step 2: Releasing Fear

Breathing exercises consistently go alongside yoga practices. Pranayama yoga is centered around breathing techniques and sequences. This form of breathing allows for the release of fear and anxiety.  For example, the deeper into the yoga sequences one gets and after fully surrendering a person will reach be beyond the superficial level of a busy conscious mind. You will understand how to be aware of and analyze different thoughts and their relationship to your emotions. This is the result of delving into the psyche and better understanding yourself and the layers of fear you have developed over your life. Being aware of what lies beneath your surface will help you identify, face, and eventually release them. Fear is a big impediment for recovery, facing this will help a person move on to the next stage of their life.

Step Three: Getting Better Rest

Do you have difficulty falling asleep and feeling rested after a night’s sleep? Symptoms of poor mental health are often fatigue, insomnia or hypersomnia. Being restless causes impulsive decisions late at night which inhibits a peaceful state of mind. Studies show yoga creates a more restful state in the body than other methods of relaxation. When performing yoga you are able to better relax and be able to fall asleep quicker, get into deeper sleep, and therefore wake up feeling fresh and ready for the day. Waking up rested is big step to keeping a positive light on the day.

Step Four: Improving Focus and Discipline

When going through yoga sequences you must silence the noise and clear the clutter in your mind. Try balancing while your instructor is walking you through different poses with a busy brain. It very difficult. This is why yoga helps you be able to sustain focus for a longer period of time.

A study between active children and focus showed that children became more adept at ignoring distractions, multitasking, and holding and manipulating information in their minds after taking up a form of physical exercise. Building your ability to focus in yoga will better equip you to focus when performing any type activity. This discipline of the mind is critical for fighting addiction and preventing relapse.

Step Five: Reducing Stress

Performing yoga releases the body’s stressors while improving respiratory, and cardiovascular function. The National Institute of Health explains that yoga helps lower blood pressure and your heart rate. The release of stress from the body is only one advantage. The meditative nature of yoga also helps you be able to release what is taking up too much space in your mind and causing unhealthy worry. Being present in the moment, releasing toxic thoughts, and keeping the body’s chemical level balances plays a vital role in attaining peace filled moments in the day.

A study conducted on the effects of yoga on addicts’ reveals “Yoga has a positive and significant effect both on depression and state anxiety level of addicts in rehabilitation period.” A person’s mental state will determine whether he/she will be in a  healthy place to move on with his/her life. When someone’s mental health is lacking you will see it leak into many other parts of that person’s life. Having your mental health in order is step one to getting the rest of you in line with your best self. Getting through yoga classes will require mental and physical attention through which both will receive benefits that will keep serving on and off the mat.