How Can Yoga Help You Manage Your Mental Health

How can Yoga help you manage your mental health? By Beth Cox

‘Yoga is the containment of the mind’s activities’ Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra, Chapter 1, Verse 2.

Yoga has been practiced for centuries for mental transformation. The traditional goal of yoga is to work with the mind through working with the body and the breath.

Stressful thoughts and tense muscles, often associated with mental health conditions, can result in fatigue and other illnesses.

Practicing yoga reduces stress, restores vitality and helps put anxieties into perspective. The problems you face may not change but you will feel clearer and more positive about managing them.
Yoga can help you to:
• reduce anxiety levels
• improve your sleep
• strengthen your immune system
• manage depression
• lower blood pressure
• manage pain
• feel more empowered and in control of your life

Yoga practice can include gentle movements, breathing techniques and meditation; working with your mind, body and breath will help you to relax and feel more in
control. Yoga can compliment other treatments used to help manage mental health conditions. It is suitable for people of a wide variety of ages and abilities. It is not a religious practice, although it will help you to increase self-awareness.

There have been many studies that explore the benefits of yoga for mental health conditions, references for some of these can be found at the end of this article.

"Yoga is very good for some psychological conditions. The practice of concentrating on the breath and on the body helps to calm the mind, as it helps to switch the focus away from the constant chatter and worries of the mind, bringing the person into being aware in the 'present moment' as opposed to the thinking of the past or the future.” Dr Kate Sparks, Chartered Psychologist

What to expect when practicing yoga.

Movement

Slow and gentle movements help to release physical tension in your body. Coordinating movement with breath helps you to focus on the present moment and

gives you a sense of clarity and calmness. Yoga postures are not only physical, they are a gentle mental discipline designed to bring mind and body together. In each posture you will give attention to your breathing and to how you are feeling and moving; you will make subtle adjustments in the posture that enable a deepened release of physical and mental tension.
Breathing Techniques

Breathing deeply and slowly helps you to feel calm: your body relaxes and your mind automatically slows down. This enables you to think clearly. Focused breathing can reduce stress hormone (cortisol) levels, heart rate, and lower blood pressure.
Meditation

Simple mindfulness techniques keep helpful thoughts in and unhelpful thoughts out. Mindfulness is becoming a popular technique; it is useful for pain management and managing anxiety levels.

What type of Yoga would suit you?

There are many types of yoga; while some are more physical and active others focus on the meditational aspects that are beneficial in managing mental health conditions. It is important to choose a type of yoga that fits with your physical ability and mental health needs. You may want to work individually with yoga or prefer to join a small group class. Speak to the yoga teacher before you start lessons to find out what they can offer you and how it can meet your needs.