As many as 1 in 5 Americans live with mental illnesses that include depression, anxiety and schizophrenia, among others. Many of these individuals often face problems in accessing health care that they desperately require, and even then, available medications or treatment may not be sufficient, resulting in unsatisfactory progress. Due to this and other reasons, many individuals dealing with mental health issues turn to alternative approaches like yoga.
As most of us are aware, there are numerous benefits to be gained through the regular practice of yoga. In addition to a number of physical benefits that come from exercise, yoga training also offers potential release from depression and can help boost mental health.
Yoga consists of physical – non-competitive – exercises that involve sustained poses (called asana in Sanskrit language) combined with controlled breathing and meditation techniques. Performing yoga poses makes participants feel more energetic and in control. This feeling of higher energy translates into improved confidence and a feeling of contentment or satisfaction with themselves.
A Harvard and Columbia study – one of the largest of its kind – that investigated the link between exercise and mental health, concluded that over half of patients suffering from depression saw their symptoms reduce with regular yoga practice. Quite a few treatment centers now organize yoga sessions for patients with psychosis and schizophrenia. This approach helps patients learn how to calm themselves down when distressed.
Yoga achieves this through developing the aspect of one’s self-awareness. Many streams of yoga are used to help people who battle with anxiety and depression. Part of yoga’s effectiveness is derived from its proven ability to allow the release of tension and lowering of cortisol levels. Stress is often a big factor that contributes to depression. For a person to relax at his/her innermost cellular level, a rigorous effort is needed to achieve a state of deep rest and calm.
Mind-body practices like yoga that emphasize deep, rhythmic and restful breathing allow this. Simple things like learning to breathe deep and cultivating breath control can have considerable impact on one’s mental state. People experiencing major depressive disorder, who did not respond well to medication, experienced reduced depression and anxiety after practicing yoga breathing controls.
The Yoga Effect
In addition to the physical benefits and focus on breathing, yoga also involves self-study and introspection. Be it a physical or mental state, this can help you find clarity in all parts of your life — work, relationships and even the ability to reserve time for yourself and utilize it optimally. Yoga combines breathing, postures and self-awareness to achieve an environment of peace and calm – inner as well as outer.
Not only can yoga make your body become more flexible, but it can do the same for your mind. A regular practice of yoga can make you become more calm and relaxed in your daily routine, giving you the vision and strength to deal with the everyday challenges of life without turning anxious or stressed.
Persistence Shows the Way
For the untrained, meditation may be just a way of getting ‘bored,’ but a mere 10 minutes of focus will help you connect with the inner self, step back and assume a holistic view. This can allow one to explore multiple perspectives and lines of action, optimize your decision-making, and result in well thought-out actions.
Yoga therapy has even proved to be of help for those dealing with eating disorders. One study found that yoga helped people with eating disorders improve their attitude regarding their bodies, reduce anxiety, make them more aware of their feelings and cope better with meals! No wonder yoga is seeing a surge in popularity with large numbers in the West taking up the practice over the past few decades.
Yoga provides you a complete package of self-care: meditation, breath control, physical asanas and the ancient yoga philosophy, all aiding the recovery from anxiety and stress. However, it’s not a quick fix solution and takes time and effort.
It is recommended that one practice yoga for at least 15 minutes every day. Even practicing 3 to 5 times a week can result in substantial improvement. Those with physical impairment or who are undergoing medical treatment, should consult with their care provider to decide on the intensity/duration and the frequency of practice.
Anybody can benefit from yoga training. All of us have to take care of our well-being – both physical and mental. One need not be in a state of despair to benefit mentally from yoga. Yoga is not a panacea, but can certainly have a profound impact on health and fitness, mental as well as physical. Sustained practice of yoga over time can bring about significant symptomatic improvements and also result in an enhanced quality of life.
Author Bio: Tracey Rohan-Irwin has worked extensively in the field of fitness and health since her early twenties. With a background in fitness training and holistic living, she started-off as a personal trainer for private and corporate clients, and has continued on her own personal journey through the study of yoga and other spiritual disciplines. She travels all over the world, seeking out the best teachers in areas of fitness and health to bring a wealth of knowledge to her own yoga teacher training.
The opinions and views expressed in this guest blog do not necessarily reflect those of www.rtor.org or its sponsor, Laurel House, Inc. The author and www.rtor.org have no affiliations with any products or services mentioned in this article or linked to herein.
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