Author: Chloe Markham
You got it: a yoga practice can help support good mental health. It’s probably not news to you, certainly not if you’ve been practicing this yoga thing for any length of time. But how exactly? And what aspects of a yoga practice can someone looking to improve their mental health work on?
Well, dear reader, I’m here to let you know how yoga can benefit your mental health, and these are my favourite ways:
1. Yoga calms your nervous system. No matter the yoga you participate in, whether it’s high energy or restorative, online yoga classes or in-person, your yoga practice will help you shift from that sympathetic nervous system and over into the parasympathetic nervous system. I.e. it helps you move from fight or flight and the associated anxieties, restlessness, or stress, to rest and digest (think: peace and quiet). And when we’re able to do this effectively, almost every single process in our bodies benefits.
2. The self-care, baby. When you step on your mat, your to-do list is (hopefully) nowhere in sight. It’s a little tricker when you’re practicing yoga at home, but it just means it’s a bigger part of the practice. You’re encouraged to breathe, focus, relax, get present, and feel. This means your mind is taken away from whatever’s clogging it up; work, relationships, doubts, judgements. This allows space for you to really check in with how you’re doing. And sometimes you don’t even know you’re feeling a certain way until you take a class and you’re given permission to feel. And then you can feel it and let it go. Self enquiry isn’t something we often get to do in our day-to-day, but this sort of introspection in our yoga classes can really help us know ourselves, find clarity, and shift our negative thought patterns.
3. The after glow. A good yoga practice doesn’t just end at, well, the end. In fact, your practice is something to take with you into the boring, quiet times, into the busy, hectic times, and everywhere in-between. After a while, you’ll find your yoga impacting your life and helping you stay calmer, more relaxed, more able to cope with the shifting requirements of being an adult human. You’re way less likely to lose your mind when someone steals your parking spot, or when Aldi run out of those biscuits you love. What does this mean for your mental health? Way. Less. Drama. It’ll become much less like Holby City up in there, and more like The Joy Of Painting With Bob Ross (the latter is a soothing tonic. Highly recommend for frazzled minds).
4. Better sleep. If you’ve ever had a pattern of insomnia, or stayed up a little too late before a hectic work day, you’ll know what I mean when I say there’s almost nothing as bad as a lack of sleep. Poor sleep is linked to depression, weight gain, health issues, not to mention a significant increase in crabbiness-levels to the folks closest to us (just don’t talk to me if I’ve not got my 9 hours). Practicing gentle yoga before bed can really help you unwind, destress, untangle from the day and help you find relaxation. Perfect tonics for a long and restful battery re-charge.
Just remember, there’s SO much at play with supporting our mental health and, just like the back of the vitamins box reads, a balanced lifestyle is important, too, and yoga isn’t a cure all.
Buuuut it’s pretty clear to me – a long-standing yoga practitioner and someone who’s had countless 5-star reviews of how good yoga is for depression, anxiety, stress and overwhelm – that yoga is a perfect, easy way to support our good mental health.
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Here’s to happy heads!