Yoga has been scientifically proven to have positive effects on mental health by promoting relaxation, reducing stress and anxiety, and improving overall well-being.
Yoga has gained support as a complementary therapy for mental health conditions due to growing scientific research.
Here are some of the ways yoga can improve mental health, based on studies:
Reducing stress: Practising yoga can decrease cortisol production, which can help reduce feelings of stress and anxiety. Additionally, yoga can improve heart rate variability, a measure of the body’s ability to handle stress.
Decreasing anxiety: Studies have found that yoga can reduce symptoms of anxiety. In fact, one study found that yoga was as effective as cognitive behavioural therapy in reducing anxiety symptoms and improving overall well-being.
Reducing depression: Yoga has been shown to reduce symptoms of depression, possibly by increasing the production of feel-good neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine. One study found that practising yoga twice a week for 12 weeks was as effective as taking antidepressant medication to reduce symptoms of depression.
Improving sleep: Practising yoga can improve sleep quality, including reducing the time it takes to fall asleep and improving total sleep duration. Shavasana and Yoga Nidra practices are particularly effective in improving sleep.
Enhancing focus: Yoga exercises like pranayama and meditation can improve cognitive function, including focus and attention. In fact, one study found that just one session of pranayama breathing exercises improved cognitive performance in healthy adults.
Let’s take a look at how various yogic practises, such as as asanas, pranayama, and meditation, can help improve mental health. Asanas Asanas refers to the physical postures that are practised in yoga, which help to stretch and strengthen the body, improve flexibility, and promote relaxation.
Some asanas are particularly beneficial for mental health, including:
Uttanasana (forward bend): This asana helps to increase blood flow to the brain, which can improve focus and reduce anxiety.
Viparita Karani (Legs-up-the-Wall Pose): This pose helps to calm the mind, reduce stress, and improve circulation.
Shavasana (Corpse Pose): This pose is often performed at the end of a yoga practice to deeply relax the body and mind. Pranayama Pranayama refers to the breathing techniques practised in yoga, which help to calm the mind, reduce stress, and promote relaxation.
Some pranayama techniques are particularly beneficial for mental health, including:
Bhramari pranayama (bee breath): This technique involves making humming sounds while breathing, which can help calm the mind and reduce anxiety.
Nadi Shodhana Pranayama (Alternate Nostril Breathing): This technique involves breathing through one nostril at a time, which can help balance the nervous system and reduce stress.
Ujjayi Pranayama: This technique involves breathing slowly and deeply through the nose, which can help calm the mind and reduce anxiety.
Om Chanting: Through Om chanting, we can relax our mind. We can even practice Om chanting during meditation, which can completely calm our mind and body.
Meditation is a practice that involves focusing the mind on a particular object or thought. It can help to reduce stress, improve focus, and promote relaxation. Some types of meditation that are particularly beneficial for mental health include:
Mindfulness meditation: This type of meditation involves focusing on the present moment and accepting thoughts and feelings as they arise without judgement.
Loving-kindness meditation: This type of meditation involves focusing on feelings of love and kindness towards oneself and others.
Yoga Nidra: This is a guided meditation that involves relaxing the body and mind deeply, which can help to reduce stress and promote relaxation.
So overall, the scientific evidence supports the use of yoga as a complementary therapy for mental health conditions. Yoga practises like asanas, pranayama, and meditation can help to promote relaxation, reduce stress and anxiety, and improve mental well-being.
Regular practice can lead to a greater sense of calmness, focus, and overall happiness.