How Yoga Can Support Your Mental Health

The pandemic brought along with it a tsunami of anxiety. COVID-19 and the resultant lockdowns saw a rise in mental health issues and, today, millions of people are suffering from its consequences. There are multiple treatments and therapies available that help in dealing with mental health issues. However, one of the easiest options is yoga - a discipline that originated in India thousands of years ago, with amazing physical and mental health benefits if practised daily. 

The different asanas, along with pranayama or breathing techniques, can help you enter a meditative state, a state where your mind is still despite the chaos around. A still, calm mind is what we need to survive in today’s world. We share with you the powerful health benefits of yoga and how you can make it a part of your daily life. 

7 powerful health benefits of yoga:

  • Reduces stress levels
  • Stress is a common factor in everyone’s life and, if left untreated, can affect our overall health. It causes illness, sleeplessness, aches and pains, anxiety, and depression. Yoga is a relaxing technique that consists of exercises that help relax tired and tensed muscles, especially in the neck and shoulders. While performing these exercises, we learn to focus on the tension in our muscles, stretch them gently and feel them relax. We focus on our breathing, which helps us concentrate on the moment. This prevents the mind from wandering and generates mindfulness. It regulates our breathing, which, in turn, helps us calm down and de-stress. 

  • Relieves anxiety
  • We almost always forget to breathe when faced with a tense situation. Pranayama or breathing exercises in yoga help us regulate our breathing. We learn to breathe in deeply and fill our lungs to their full capacity as we focus on inhaling and exhaling. This calms our mind and body. Mindful breathing improves our awareness and boosts our concentration. This helps us become aware of our emotions and our reactions to a given situation and release all the negativity that threatens to disturb our equilibrium. Pranayama helps tremendously in calming our nervous system and strengthening our lungs. You won’t notice the effects overnight, but consistent practice and mindful breathing will eventually make a huge difference. 

  • Eases depression
  • Everyday stress brings worry, misery, and depression. The inability to enjoy the moment or a complete lack of interest in any activity is depression. Yoga asanas help improve blood circulation and the supply of oxygen throughout the body. Asanas, such as the cobra pose or the camel pose, when done under supervision, can help open up the shoulders, neck, and chest, stretch the spine, and calm the mind. Savasana (corpse pose) helps calm the mind, reduces physical and mental fatigue and leaves you feeling rejuvenated. Meditation is a great way to ease depression. It regulates your breathing and improves your mood gently. It helps raise serotonin and dopamine, which are considered the happiness hormones, and induces a feeling of wellbeing. 

  • Improves sleep
  • Regular practice of yoga asanas and pranayama improves the quality of your sleep as it reduces your stress levels. Deep breathing and mindfulness techniques help you fall asleep and stay asleep. And, better sleep quality leads to better mental health and overall wellbeing. Your concentration improves, as does your mindfulness, which helps you find ways to relieve the pent-up stress before bedtime. A refreshed mind helps you think and focus better, which, in turn, helps you perform better. This generates a sense of achievement and increases your happiness quotient.

  • Encourages healthy habits
  • The disciplined life of yoga brings about a positive change in not just your physical and mental health but also your emotional health. It helps you make healthier food choices and follow a healthy lifestyle when you observe the improvement in yourself. Whether you practice yoga for better mental health or to lose weight, the results will help you make better decisions, such as quitting unhealthy habits, like smoking, and switching to healthier ones, such as vegan or vegetarian foods over processed and non-vegetarian foods. You can take a look at the vegan foods offered by Amala Earth and try out some vegan or vegetarian recipes to fuel your body with the necessary nutrients.

  • Relieves mood swings
  • Fluctuating moods are annoying and can ruin a perfect day. They upset our productivity as well as our interpersonal relationships, thus affecting every area of our life. Yoga asanas help boost the levels of neurotransmitters in our brain and give us a feeling of positivity, contentment and happiness. Consistent practice of yoga gives relief from irritability, anger, sadness and other negative emotions. The release of happiness hormones relieves anxiety and depression and replaces bad moods with happy ones. You will feel more confident of yourself and in control of your moods. Yoga helps change our perspective and deal with negativity with a positive outlook. 

  • Keeps the brain healthy
  • Maintaining the health and vitality of our brain is important for a healthy and productive life.  Yoga, pranayama and meditation increase the oxygen supply to the brain, improve its function and keep you mentally strong. It improves your memory and concentration, which is necessary for day-to-day activities. The yoga asanas stimulate your thinking capacity, encourage creativity, improve cognition, enhance your decision-making skills and increase your attention span and mental energy, which is essential for conducting any task. 

    Embrace the yoga mindset

    Although countless videos on yoga are available on YouTube, it is best learned from a certified yoga instructor. They will teach you the right asanas and breathing techniques best suited to you after considering your limitations. Do share your health issues with your instructor, as talking about mental health problems is the first step towards acknowledging and resolving them. Setting aside some time at a fixed hour every day and practising the asanas and pranayama diligently will help you reap its benefits in the long run. 

    We need to prioritise our mental health this new year. Life and its uncertainties have an uncanny way of disturbing our peace of mind. Yoga is the best health programme to help us deal with the disturbances without losing our equilibrium.