Stories about increasing levels of anxiety and anxious feelings populate the headlines in the U.S., as do articles recommending various ways to alleviate those feelings. One great option is the brain-boosting power of yoga. There are many who practice yoga who will tell you that the practice has changed the way they feel and think on a daily basis. But, to be more specific, how does yoga affect your mental health?
Check out these top five mental health benefits of yoga.
1. Relief from depression and anxiety
Because yoga is a combination of exercise, meditation, relaxation, and even socialization, it's a wonderful way to relieve anxiety and/or depression.
By regulating your stress response system, clearing your mind of thoughts so you can focus on the present, and calming down your nervous system, yoga plays a key role in bringing balance and peace back into your hectic life.
Plus, yoga has the ability to reduce your heart rate, respiration rate, and blood pressure, thereby relaxing you and easing your anxiety and nervousness without having to use prescription drugs.
2. Reduce the effects of PTSD and similar conditions
Yoga may also help you deal with myriad types of stress, including Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
A study by researchers at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto, Canada and Brigham and Women's Hospital at Harvard Medical School found that participants in a kundalini yoga program showed greater changes in measures of sleep, positive affect, perceived stress, anxiety, stress, and resilience than those who didn’t do yoga.
3. Boost concentration, focus, and memory
Do you find it hard to focus on certain daily tasks? Then giving yoga a try could help you regain the ability to get things done efficiently without getting distracted.
Research has shown that yoga can boost concentration and memory because you have to focus during your practice. In addition to turning inward and really listening to your body so you don't push yourself too far and injure yourself, yoga requires that you find a focal point during balancing postures.
In fact, it's hard to think of anything aside from maintaining your balance and form when you’re standing on one foot in tree pose, which means you get to clear your thoughts, calm your senses, and improve your brain's ability to concentrate on one thing at a time. And by clearing the noise from your mind, you clear space for better memory as well.
4. Improve your mood
Do you suffer from mood swings? Or do you find that you're almost always in an irritable or negative mood? Then you may be pleased to learn that a small study found that individuals that consistently do yoga enjoy higher levels of GABA in their brains.
What's GABA, you ask? It's a neurotransmitter in your brain that's responsible for the way you feel. Those with low levels might suffer from depression, anxiety, and other negative emotions. Yoga can help boost your GABA levels so you can release negative emotions and moods, replace them with better ones, and reap more self-confidence and joy in your life.
5. Keep your brain young
Yet another psychological benefit of yoga is its ability to maintain the health and vitality of your brain, even into old age.
Studies have found that those who practice yoga and meditation have more resilient brains, as well as improved brain function, particularly in older participants. So if you want to keep your brain young, well oxygenated, and calm, yoga is certainly a tool you should use to stay vital in body and mind.
Ready to improve your body and brain with yoga?
Whether you deal with a lot of stress in your everyday life, you suffer from depression, PTSD, or anxiety, or you want to simply improve the health and function of your mind, yoga could be the ideal solution you've been searching for.
So rather than relying upon drugs that alter your mind, practice consistently to achieve long lasting, all natural results that work with — rather than against — your body and mind.
Learn more in our article Your brain on yoga: How yoga makes you smarter.
Centre for Addiction and Mental Health and Brigham and Women's Hospital at Harvard Medical School, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4558444/
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, http://www.academia.edu/3145421/The_Acute_Effects_of_Yoga_on_Executive_Function
The Journals of Gerontology,