Y is for Yoga The Mental Health Benefits of Yoga

By: Lisa Philippart
Wait! Come back! I know what you are thinking…you have absolutely no interest in yoga…it’s a fad that won’t go away…you tried it before and it didn’t do anything. I get it. I’ve said the same things. Please, just take five minutes tops (I know this is supposed to be a mental health minute) to learn how and why yoga can be the key to psychological and emotional healing. When practiced effectively, yoga is a mind-body-spirit exercise that can help decrease anxiety and depression, improve memory and focus, and even resolve issues with relationships and self-confidence.

Fundamentally, yoga is a practice of poses and breathing techniques designed to strengthen and balance the body and the mind. But as a psychology, yoga helps us work with the nature of the mind, the framework of being a human, and the understanding of how emotions live in our bodies and affect our behavior and our minds. So let’s get specific:

1.When you practice yoga, you are moving from your sympathetic nervous system to your parasympathetic nervous system. Simply paying attention to breathing deeply, and moving with intention, can take you from fight or flight status to resting and calming your nervous system.
2.Yoga allows you to connect to your self. Your true self. By developing a more non-judgmental relationship through your unconscious mind, you are telling your self that you are worthy of the “me” time. And really, doesn’t everything come down to your relationship with yourself? Yoga can provide that grounding in your sense of self, which develops into a healthy, balanced center. Nothing to prove and nothing to hide.

3.Believe it or not, yoga improves your romantic relationships! When you are more at peace with yourself, you are more likely to be that way with your partner. Yoga teaches compassion and love for who you truly are, which transfers to the way you treat those you love.

4.Yoga helps you to become aware of where in your body you hold certain types of energy. For example, when you are anxious or stressed, where do you hold that tension or tightness? This emotional energy can be released through various poses and movements. You are healing from the inside out.

5.Stick with me, because this may be a bit esoteric. (Love that word!) Yoga can often guide you in dealing with your family-of-origin issues. You were born with gifts and challenges over which you have no control. Have you owned who you are? You are the only one who can change your actions and behaviors. Yoga embraces the authentic you.

So, if you prefer yoga as a social activity, commit to a class. Or if you tend to be more solitary, learn a few poses and commit to making meditation time daily. Either way, the physicality of yoga will boost your mind and spirit in surprisingly positive ways.