Chances are if you have ever practiced yoga, you’ve left your mat feeling better than you did before. Yoga directly translates to “union”. This ancient practice helps unite our body, mind and spirit for greater peace of mind and an overall sense of well-being. This practice is one of the most powerful things we can do for not only our physical health, but our mental and emotional health as well. If you’ve been wondering whether or not you would benefit from a regular yoga practice, we have listed 10 of the top mental health benefits from practicing yoga.
1. Relieves anxiety
Many people are initially attracted to yoga in pursuit of relief from feelings of anxiety. Yoga has been proven to help ease anxiety in a number of people. One study had a group of 52 women practice hatha yoga three times a week for four weeks (1). Symptoms of anxiety within this group significantly decreased after just 12 yoga sessions during the study.
2. Better concentration and memory
Yoga is largely a practice of present moment awareness. The aim while practicing is to direct your focus to the present moment, bringing your awareness to the breath and body each time the mind begins to wander. This meditative practice over time helps increase your concentration in all areas of life and has been proven to improve memory (2).
3. Improved mood
Exercise has been proven time and time again to boost our moods and elevate our well-being. Yoga specifically can help us feel happier and foster a sense of joy and lightness. This specific study tracked the effects of yoga versus walking on mood and concluded that those who were practicing yoga reported greater improvements in their mood and experienced decreased anxiety (3).
4. Decreased stress
Yoga is known to promote deep relaxation and decrease symptoms of stress. Multiple studies have proven that yoga can help lower production of cortisol, the stress related hormone. This specific study concluded that individuals practicing yoga regularly had low serum cortisol levels compared to their other control groups who were not practicing yoga (4).
5. Better sleep
A great natural solution to a better night’s sleep may be including a regular yoga practice in your routine. Over 55% of yoga practitioners reported improved sleep quality as a result of their regular practice (5). All age ranges can improve relaxation and optimize their sleep quality from implementing yoga on a regular basis.
6. Fosters a sense of community
There’s truly nothing like being a part of a strong like minded community. Being connected to a community has been scientifically proven to help increase levels of happiness and a sense of belonging (6). Yoga fosters a strong sense of community and thrives off of human connection and interaction. Yoga studios and events create an open and safe space to connect with people who are also focused on their health and well-being. You can find local yoga events and studios in your area, or join a variety of virtual live offerings that can connect you to the like minded community you’ve been seeking.
7. Relieves depression symptoms
Yoga is commonly used as a form of therapy for people experiencing various levels of depression. A regular yoga practice may help relieve symptoms of mild to moderate depression in adults and can help foster a sense of peace and relaxation.
8. Relieves chronic pain
Chronic pain can be a source of emotional distress for many. Yoga may help relieve symptoms of chronic pain and tension in the body over time, helping relieve the stress of experiencing persistent discomfort in the body.
9. Increases mental strength
Yoga can be physically very challenging. The practice involves pushing our bodies and meeting ourselves in challenging moments with breath and presence. This practice requires overcoming challenges and promotes a sense of resilience. This resilience can carry us through our everyday lives and help us trust our ability to breathe through moments of difficulty and discomfort, tapping into our inner strength.
10. Creates a positive mindset
Yoga philosophy encourages santosha, or contentment with what is and finding gratitude and positivity in our everyday lives. The more invested we become in the principles of yoga, the more we become focused on fostering a positive outlook on life, developing a sense of deep satisfaction and continuing to see the lessons in our challenging experiences.