Woman doing yoga on the floor on a black mat

The Mental Benefits of Yoga

Most of us imagine yoga to be an arduous exercise, restricted to those who are more spiritually enlightened than the average person or those who are born to be yoga practitioners. But the truth is that yoga is for anyone who wants to improve their physical and mental well-being! We all know about the physical benefits of yoga such as increased flexibility, stronger core strength, healthier joints, and improved posture. But did you know about the mental benefits of yoga?

In fact, research from various sources suggests that yogis and yoginis are blessed to experience mental benefits as well, including but not limited to reduced stress, improved mood, and higher levels of self-esteem.

To help you understand why yoga needs to be a part of your daily routine, Begum C has compiled a list of some mental benefits of yoga that will inspire you to get started on your journey to better physical and mental health starting today!

Reduced Stress

Reducing stress in your muscles and mind is one of the many ways in which yoga and mental health are connected. Are you feeling anxious, not only in your body but about that presentation at work or the busy week ahead? Yoga can come to the rescue and kill two birds with one stone! Known to function as a soothing series of movements, yoga aids in quieting down our stress response system and restoring calmness.

This is also true for Restorative Yoga, which features longer-held poses. The challenging nature of these exercises helps us practice calmness in stressful situations, strengthening the sympathetic nervous system. This prevents us from feeling overwhelmed when faced with multiple tasks in our daily lives. Besides, the deep breathing involved in yoga is an additional bonus in furthering this sense of serenity.

We understand your potential fear. You might be thinking, “But Restorative yoga sounds so difficult!”

Not true.

Yoga actually involves very simple poses such as the Child and Seated Cat-Cow. The names sound easy and funny – which is, let’s face it, the best combination! Other studies have confirmed the stress-specific mental benefits of yoga by alluding to its ability to decrease the production of cortisol in our bodies, which is the main stress hormone.

Improved Mood

It would naturally follow that a decrease in your stress levels will lead to a livelier, relaxed, and more positive mood, given that you’re not as frustrated, irritable, and anxious as before. Besides, yoga helps in building your attention span so that you are more aware of present-moment experiences; this prevents you from clinging to the negative thought patterns that are associated with depression. Studies have shown heightened activity in the left prefrontal cortex of the brain after doing yoga, which leads to better immune functions and higher happiness levels.

That’s right – you’ll be able to control your mind better with yoga!

Yoga floods your body with ‘happy’ hormones that make you feel good. This means that levels of dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin, and GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) go up. GABA not only triggers relaxation but also serves as an efficient antidepressant that leaves ‘feel-good’ vibes in its trail. If you are regular with your yoga workouts, GABA can even improve your concentration span!

So far, the benefits of yoga equal to reduced levels of stress and a happier mood. How else are yoga and mental health connected, you might wonder? Read on to discover one particular perk that will leave you convinced that yoga should be your favorite hobby starting today!

Greater Self-Esteem

If we think about the long-term mental benefits of yoga, we will ultimately reach the conclusion that it is about self-love and acceptance. You are essentially taking in deep breaths, holding poses, and releasing negative energy. With consistency, this can reap positive effects on how we treat and view our bodies and minds. The exercise of holding poses can be challenging at first, but there’s nothing that can’t be done with practice!

Research indicates that yoga leads to the enlargement of the hippocampus and somatosensory cortex, which are responsible for managing anxiety and body awareness. This boosts self-esteem and helps us let go of negative thought patterns. Since we value ourselves in more prominent ways, we are also inclined to take care of our bodies (and minds) through better diet regimens and exercise routines.

Here, let’s bring GABA back into the equation. Together with higher self-esteem, it contributes to better neural networks in the brain, which leads to improved reasoning and problem-solving skills. All because of our decision to practice yoga! Isn’t belief a truly powerful tool, worthy of opening doors to a more refined lifestyle?

As you move through these experiences daily, you’re bound to realize that your physical and mental well-being is improving. This proves that you’re the master of enforcing positive change and that you hold sway over your thoughts, decisions, and actions. Before long, you’ll be able to hold difficult conversations with a colleague and face demanding situations, all of which contribute to your new and improved sense of self.

These are some exciting mental benefits of yoga that complement its relatively well-known physical advantages. Equipped with these improvements, you can have a happier, more relaxed, and fulfilling life. The best part is that yoga does not require much time; anyone can fit a 30-minute session into their busy schedule. Let’s pull out that mat and get started, shall we?

Enjoyed this informative blog on yoga and mental health? Browse the Begum C Wellness Blog for more great content and give yourself the gift of a better lifestyle!

Sources:

Friedman, J. (2016, April 29). 5 Ways Yoga Benefits Your Mental Health. Retrieved September 5, 2020, from https://www.yogajournal.com/lifestyle/5-ways-yoga-is-good-for-your-mental-health

Link, R. (n.d.). 13 Benefits of Yoga That Are Supported by Science. Retrieved September 6, 2020, from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/13-benefits-of-yoga

Stern, A. (2018, July 20). Your Brain On Yoga – 6 Mental Benefits of Yoga and How They Impact Your Brain. Retrieved September 8, 2020, from https://www.yogiapproved.com/yoga/mental-benefits-of-yoga/

Take a Stand for Yoga Today. (2013, May 23). Retrieved September 7, 2020, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/get-hardy/201305/take-stand-yoga-today

The Mental Health Benefits of Yoga: Effects & Impact: PowerYoga. (2017, September 20). Retrieved September 9, 2020, from https://poweryoga.com/blog/mental-health-benefits-yoga/

Timothy McCall, M. (2007, August 28). 38 Health Benefits of Yoga. Retrieved September 7, 2020, from https://www.yogajournal.com/lifestyle/count-yoga-38-ways-yoga-keeps-fit

Top 10 Benefits of Practicing Yoga. (n.d.). Retrieved September 5, 2020, from https://www.yogabliss.co.uk/Top-10-Benefits-of-Practicing-Yoga

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