What Are the Main Mental Health Benefits of Yoga?
If you’ve ever completed a satisfying yoga class, you know that powerful feeling of restoration that persists long after the session is over. There’s a balanced sense of calmness with empowerment. You might feel stronger and lighter- at the same time. Those experiences likely encourage you to keep coming back to the mat.
There are many mental health benefits of yoga. Having a regular practice can decrease stress, improve self-confidence, and cultivate better body image. Let’s get into what you need to know.
Yoga Can Improve Your Mood
Yoga is holistic, and yoga practitioners consistently emphasize the benefits of mind-body connectivity. Yoga itself is both calming and challenging. You will likely struggle in some positions, but you will also feel confident in others.
Exercise is undoubtedly good for your mental health, and all forms of exercise can release endorphins, limit cortisol, and help support emotional regulation. But research shows that yoga may also enhance your mood by releasing GABA, a neurotransmitter that coincides with decreased anxiety and a stabilized mood.
In yoga, you will learn how to breathe deeply, stay present with yourself, and accept the current situation. Implementing these principles into your routine- regardless of your current life circumstances- can make a profound difference in how you feel.
Yoga Can Strengthen Your Body Image
Unfortunately, exercise can be challenging for people with poor body image or related self-esteem issues. You may feel “pressured” by certain coaches or environments for your body to look a certain way. Even if you’re the one putting pressure on yourself, it can still feel difficult.
But in yoga, the expectations tend to be much different. So much of yoga entails embracing both yourself and the present moment. It also integrates a sense of gratitude for your body’s strengths and abilities. Likewise, during your practice, you will be continuously reminded to avoid giving into judgmental or negative thoughts.
By adopting these mindsets into your daily life, you might find that you feel more self-assured and confident.
Yoga Can Relieve Anxiety and Stress
Do you struggle from chronic stress or an anxiety disorder? If so, you’re not alone. Millions of people live with these conditions. Unfortunately, understanding and managing them can be challenging.
However, yoga can help alleviate some of these distressing symptoms. Yoga focuses on finding a sense of peace and balance. Unlike other exercises, you will learn to challenge yourself to slow down and actually listen to your body.
As a result, many yogis notice a significant reduction in how tense or worried they feel. While the exact reasons for this phenomenon are unclear, it likely has to do with a combination of environmental and biological factors.
Yoga Can Enhance Your Focus and Concentration
The mental health benefits of yoga transcend beyond the mat or studio. Engaging in a routine practice can fundamentally improve your brain’s anatomy.
Research shows that yoga can affect both the prefrontal cortex and anterior cingulate cortex. Therefore, consistent yoga can help improve memory performance and strengthen both focus and concentration.
If you feel scattered or forgetful, consider giving yoga a serious try. This practice requires full focus and mindfulness, and you can take these skills with you through the rest of your day.
Yoga Can Improve Your Overall Quality of Life
Engaging in meaningful hobbies and passions can give you a greater sense of purpose. And when you feel purposeful, you will likely feel happier and more content with your life.
If you belong to a studio, yoga can create a sense of strong community. Many people make deep, wonderful friendships in their practice. Having a quality support system boosts your well-being and makes life feel more meaningful.
And even if you practice solo, there are fantastic benefits associated with strengthening your skillset, challenging yourself in new poses, and enjoying different ways of moving your body. As humans, we are wired to seek growth. There is no doubt that yoga provides many opportunities for that fulfillment.
What if the Mental Health Benefits of Yoga Aren’t Enough?
Yoga is undeniably a wonderful activity. It’s widely-accessible, easy to learn, and designed for all types of people. Furthermore, the barrier to entry is relatively low- you can practice for free!
With that in mind, yoga can be a tool for self-care and emotional well-being. However, it isn’t necessarily a cure for your struggles, and it should not replace any form of professional care.
There are numerous mental health benefits of yoga, but if you are struggling with a condition like depression or anxiety, you may need more support. Therapy offers a safe and effective space to explore your feelings and learn new ways to manage your stress.
No matter where you are on your journey, we are here for you. Contact us today to learn more.
Willow Counseling, PLLC – Nashville, TN
Willow Counseling, PLLC exists to provide quality trauma-informed mental health counseling to the Nashville community, recognizing the interconnectedness of our emotional, spiritual and physical selves. We work together to alleviate symptoms, learn better coping skills, relieve burdens, remove the pain of trauma, and so much more. However, our greatest desire is for you to know what it means to feel purpose and joy again and to recognize the strength and worth you have to offer the world.