In the West, yoga is largely seen as a form of exercise but it is also a spiritual practice and a form of alternative or complementary medicine for the uniting of your mind and body. (The word itself stems from the Sanskrit word “yuj,” which means to unite.) Increasingly physicians are seeing it as a form of mental health self-care, including in holistic drug and alcohol treatment programs.
Although the exact origin of yoga is unclear, it appears that the practice could date back 5,000 years, though most of the specific postures and poses are of much more recent provenance
Some yoga practices are faster-paced and have different rules to follow, but the basic concept remains the same. You:
Move through a series of positions.
Focus on your breathing so your brain receives an ample amount of oxygen
Give your mind a rest from all the stress in your life.
How Yoga Connects Mind and Body
Yoga and Mental Health – Encourages Mindfulness
One goal in practising yoga is mindfulness: to spend time in the current moment, focusing on moving your body and your breathing.
This isn’t second nature to most people because they’re often focused on what they’re going to do next or fretting over something that happened in the past.
Through yoga and mindfulness, you can disrupt your thought patterns during yoga, refocus positively, and decrease your anxiety and worry.
While depression can have many causes, stress can lead to depression and vice versa. Yoga can interrupt this cycle and ease the symptoms of depression by reducing the stress you’re already dealing with.
When you’re focused on your breathing, moving your body, and being in the present moment, you’re not worried about all the stressors in your life.
Ultimately, practising yoga can also help you to learn better coping mechanisms, which can help you combat stress and ultimately reduce your depression symptoms as well.
A person may choose to incorporate yoga into their current treatment plan if their current drug regimen isn’t adequately controlling their symptoms. Some people opt to practice yoga as an alternative to Western allopathic medicine.
Yoga and Mental Health – Builds Self-Confidence
A lack of self-confidence can interfere with your home, social, and work life. It can also lead to depression symptoms. Not to mention, you might become more withdrawn, fearful, and less active.
When you lack self-confidence, you may find the need to say yes to do things for people, even though you don’t want to. Your lack of self-confidence might interfere with you being able to communicate effectively with your partner, among various other issues.
Practising yoga can rebuild your self-confidence. When you’re present in the moment and not focused on your worries, you don’t have those negative thoughts about yourself nagging at you.
Also, Yoga poses vary in difficulty greatly. As you gradually work through more advanced poses, you increase your self-confidence.
Yoga and Mental Health – Improves Concentration and Mental Clarity
It’s difficult to live in the moment and concentrate on one task at a time when you have multiple responsibilities to juggle, such as a home and family. Even as you drive to work or try to finish an assignment before a meeting, it’s normal to worry about everything you need to accomplish.
With yoga, you learn to focus your energy and mind on one activity. Through deep breathing exercises, your brain is getting more oxygen so it can function at its optimal level.
Yoga and Mental Health – Reduces Anger
Do you feel like you get angry easily? Yoga may be able to help you manage—not eliminate—your anger by teaching you to have better control over it
Firstly, yoga helps you to better manage your stress, which could be a culprit of you getting angry over minor issues. As you practice yoga regularly, you learn to focus, take deep breaths, and calm yourself, self-soothing before you get angry.
Stress, depression, and a lack of confidence could be harming your ability to live a normal life. It can also cause you to turn to drugs or alcohol to self-treat the problem. As a complement to evidence-based therapies, yoga may help you get and stay clean.
A mindfulness practice such as yoga can help you mentally in many ways.
Stephen Bitsoli received his degree in English from Wayne State University in Detroit. The Michigan native is a professional writer and guest blogger and was a journalist for more than 20 years. Since 2016, he’s used that experience and passion in writing well-organized, comprehensive, and comprehensible articles on the complex and changing world of substance abuse and treatment. He’s won awards for his newspaper articles and was the top-ranked blogger at an international website in 2018. A lifelong reader, he enjoys learning and sharing what he’s learned.
Stephen Bitsoli Sunshine Behavioral Health Editor|Author|Content Writer