Yoga for Mental and Psychological Wellness
Yoga is an ancient Eastern practice that combines mindfulness training with physical exercise. This practice offers various physical, mental, psychological, and spiritual benefits. Supported by Western studies, the numerous health and wellness benefits that can be gained from practicing yoga. This makes yoga an ideal activity for almost anyone, regardless of sex, age, and physical and mental condition.
In this article, we will be focusing on the mental and psychological benefits that can be achieved from practicing yoga:
Psychological and Mental Health
Mental health refers to the psychological and emotional well-being of an individual. By being mentally healthy, you are able to manage your emotional capabilities. This allows you to properly function in society, free of unnecessary stress and worries. The physical poses in yoga, also called Asanas, help cleanse and improve the nervous and circulatory systems of the body. The result is a healthier mind and an improve your overall physical health.
According to the British Psychological Society, “As a very gentle form of exercise (compared with some of the more aerobic, dynamic forms of yoga like ashtanga that celebrities like Madonna practice) incorporating stretching and deep breathing it can enhance psychological wellbeing, not only because it is exercise (with the established evidence of the benefits of exercise for wellbeing) but also because the stretching and deep breathing increase oxygen supply to different parts of the body, helping ease tension and improves circulation ultimately influencing well-being.”
Yoga as Natural Treatment of Anxiety and Depression
As yoga combines relaxation, meditation, socialization, and exercise. It has been shown to help in alleviating anxiety and depression. A Harvard University article cites yoga to be beneficial in regulating one’s stress response system. Yoga helps to lower blood pressure and heart rate. As it improves respiration, a person with anxiety and depression is able to address these issues without having to resort to expensive medications.
In the said article, “Available reviews of a wide range of yoga practices suggest they can reduce the impact of exaggerated stress responses and may be helpful for both anxiety and depression. In this respect, yoga functions like other self-soothing techniques, such as meditation, relaxation, exercise, or even socializing with friends.”
Improved Memory and Concentration
Compared to conventional aerobic exercise, yoga is said to be more effective at boosting memory and concentration. Researchers say that by dedicating just 20 minutes everyday to yoga, one can see improvements in focus and memory. Studies conducted in the United States discovered that even a single session of Hatha yoga can lead to significant improvements in a person’s speed and accuracy upon testing their working memory and concentration.
Neha Gothe, professor at Wayne State University and lead author of the said study, explained that, “Yoga is an ancient Indian science and way of life that includes not only physical movements and postures but also regulated breathing and meditation. The practice involves an active attentional or mindfulness component but its potential benefits have not been thoroughly explored.”
Prevention of Mental Health Problems in Teens
Adolescence is an important stage when mental health is developed. This includes the ability to positively cope with stress. It is for this reason that numerous school-based stress management and wellness programs have been initiated, to encourage teens to practice healthy ways of coping. One promising approach to helping the youth effectively manage stress is yoga, by combining strength and flexibility exercises with relaxation and mindfulness techniques.
Recent studies have shown that yoga provides positive results in a broad range of mental and physical health problems, including adolescents and children. As mental health disorders generally develop during the adolescent stage, “Yoga may serve a preventive role in adolescent mental health,” according to the new study led by Jessica Noggle, PhD, of Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston.
Complementary Treatment for PTSD
PTSD, short for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, is mental disorder. This is caused by experiencing or witnessing life-threatening events. This includes physical or sexual abuse, grave accidents, natural disasters, military combat, or terrorist incidents. Patients who suffer from PTSD are frequently haunted by nightmares and flashbacks of the traumatizing event.
According to the American Psychological Association, psychologists find yoga to be more effective compared to other psychotherapy techniques. A pilot study at the Trauma Center located at the Justice Resource Institute in Massachusetts examined women with PTSD. After eight sessions taking 75-minute Hatha yoga class, these women experienced a significant decline in PTSD symptoms.
Ritu Sharma, PhD, project coordinator at the said center’s yoga program, shares that, “When people experience trauma, they may experience not only a sense of emotional disregulation, but also a feeling of being physically immobilized. Body-oriented techniques such as yoga help them increase awareness of sensations in the body, stay more focused on the present moment and hopefully empower them to take effective actions.”