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Is Yoga Good For Mental Health?

Laura Finch on October 25, 2021
Laura is a yoga teacher who completed 200 hours of training.

Are you suffering from stress, anxiety or poor self-esteem? Then you'll likely benefit from some yoga time.

Research shows that yoga and its key elements (think breathing and meditation) will not only help you feel happier and better about yourself but also change your brain, boosting focus, concentration and your ability to solve difficult problems.

Read on to learn:

  • the amazing mental benefits of yoga
  • the not-so-mysterious ways yoga positively affects your mental health;
  • which yoga is best for overall wellness.

What are mental health benefits of yoga?

How does yoga improve mental wellbeing?

Yoga improves your mental well-being in the following ways:

  • Yoga modulates your hormones, increasing the levels of "happy" chemicals and decreasing the ones causing stress such as cortisol;
  • Yoga helps you sleep better, putting you in a better mood the next day and increasing your energy levels;
  • Yoga improves your cognitive function, making you more focused and better at solving tasks;
  • Yoga makes you less reactive and less prone to stress;
  • Yoga increases your self-esteem and confidence, increasing body awareness and teaching gratefulness.

Can yoga heal mental issues?

Yoga is now being increasing used as a complementary practice along with psychotherapy and medical interventions to help improve the following conditions:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Insomnia
  • PTSD
  • Eating disorders
  • Addiction

Which yoga is best for mental health?

I'd suggest going for a slower and calmer style of yoga such as Sivananda, Iyengar, and Gentle Hatha for mental health. These styles focus not only on physical postures and strength-building but also on proper breathing and final relaxation.

That said, there are a lot of yoga styles out there and each one can help improve mental clarity and overall wellbeing in their own way.

How does yoga put you in a better mood?

Yoga has been shown to increase the levels of a neurotransmitter called GABA, which controls behavior and stress.

Also, yoga modulates the hormone activity, including dopamine and serotonin that make us feel content and joyful.

On top of that, yoga turned out to be more effective in increasing your mood than walking or a physical education session.

Does yoga make you calmer?

Research shows that yoga can make you a calmer and less emotionally reactive in daily life.

A short practice of yoga increases GABA levels, a neurotransmitter high levels of which are connected with relaxation and joy. On top of that, yoga makes you less reactive to stress and other negative stimuli by reducing blood flow to amygdala - a part of the brain that processes emotions.

Is yoga good for depression?

Yoga therapy has been shown to help manage stress, anxiety, and depression. 5https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23538080/

One study has also found that yoga is more effective at reducting depressive symptoms than relaxation exercises, or aerobic exercise.

Which pranayama is best for depression?

By doing pranayama regularly, you can better manage the symnptoms of depression and anxiety. 6https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22988934/

There are a lot of breathing techniques to try but one of my favorite ones is called Brahmari - the Humming Breath. Brahmari pranayama is said to quiet the mind troubled by depression, anxiety, or negative mental โ€œtape loops.โ€

Here's how to perform the Humming Breath:

  • Sit in a comfortable position on a floor or a chair.
  • Close your eyes.
  • Take a deep breathe through your nose and hold it for as long as comfortable.
  • On an exhale, start making a humming sound in the throat, feeling the vibrating sensation in your mouth, tongue, teeth, and even the top of your head.
  • Repeat for about 5 rounds and return to your normal breathing pattern.

What actually causes depression?

The brain has a complex system of chemicals that are involved in controlling mood. 7https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27060939/

Depression could be caused by several factors, including a malfunctioning mood regulation mechanism in the brain, genetic vulnerability, stressful life events, medications, and medical issues.

How do I stop stress and anxiety?

  • Regular movement is one of the best ways to combat stress and help your nervous system to self-regulate.
  • You can try a number of supplements that have been shown to reduce a person's anxiety and stress levels.
  • During the day, try to limit the intake of caffeine.
  • Take a chewing gum break. Research shows that chewing a gum can lower stress levels and put you into better mood.
  • Spend quality time with your family and friends.

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