yoga for mental health

Importance of Yoga for Mental Health

With a growing body of research supporting yoga for mental health, psychologists are weaving the practice into their work with clients.

When we hear the term “YOGA” we mostly picture a saint sitting on a mountain top in a meditative pose, isn’t it? Or we see all the weird and difficult postures performed by various yoga practitioners. Whatever the scenario is, let us first understand the origin of the word “YOGA”.  

Yoga originated 5000 years back. It came from an ancient Sanskrit word “YUG”, which means joining of body, mind & breath. 

The union of the individual self to the universal self. 

Yoga is practiced to attain physical, mental & spiritual wellbeing. The Bhagavad Gita has beautifully defined it as – “Samatvam yoga uchyate” meaning Yoga is evenness in every situation. Yoga brings out the mind-body-breath coordination in a well-balanced way. Which helps us to remain sober in happy and sad times. 

My Yoga Guru, Life coach & NLP Trainer- “Anupama Mishra” always taught us that 10% of yoga is done on the mat & rest 90% of yoga happens off the mat…..yes, you heard it right. 

Because any disease starts in the mind at first. If we don’t let it go, it manifests itself in one of the weakest organs in our body. Hence all the diseases except accident & fever are known as ‘Psychosomatic disease.’ 

Why Yoga? 

Due to the rise in physical, emotional & mental issues in today’s world, the need for yoga is more today! 

It is solace to the restless mind, as it helps one find that inner peace within oneself. 

Yoga is a boon for sick people, as it helps to overcome the disease condition through various asanas. 

Yoga is a tool to enhance intelligence, memory power & creativity to some extent. 

Yoga is a great tool to improve personality. 

Benefits of Yoga. 

  • Deep relaxation at the muscular level. 
  • Slowing down the breath & maintaining balance at a pranic level. 
  • Sharpening & calming down the mind at an intellectual level. 
  • Enhancing happiness in life & equipoise at the emotional level. 
  • Manifest the innate divinity in all areas of life. 

How Yoga helps at Mental Level? 

Yoga helps in healing a disturbed mind by helping to calm down. Yoga is a systematic and conscious process of calming down the mind to build willpower into it.  

Yoga helps us to channel our emotions, as yogic practices help with emotional management. It helps us balance our negative emotions through Yama & Niyama. 

Yama is a Sanskrit word which means “reining in” or “control”. 

Niyama complements Yama & in Sanskrit it means duty or habits for healthy living. 

8 Limbs of Yoga: 

  • Yama: In the Indian sage Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras treatise, yamas are the first limb of yoga in the Ashtanga yoga system—also called the eight-limbed path.  

The 5 Yamas are:  

  1. Ahimsa: Non-violence, or avoiding thoughts or actions that might harm others, including nature. To practice love & kindness and send kindness to loved ones, yourself, and your community.   
  2. Asteya: Non-stealing. Asteya goes beyond not stealing material possessions—it is also about not over-indulging or taking too much than needed by one. Practice asteya by being mindful of your consumption of natural resources, and to stay content with what we have. 
  3. Satya: Truthfulness in words, thoughts, and actions.  In your yoga practice, be honest with yourself by observing your body and honoring your limits.  
  4. Aparigraha: Non-possessiveness of material goods and people. Not accumulating a lot of worldly possessions more than needed. It can be an accumulation of food, clothes, thought as they lead to self-destruction. 
  5. Brahmacharya: Celibacy or conservation of energy, or moderation. You can incorporate brahmacharya into your life by resting when you need to. Find ways to relax and recharge so that you have the energy to do things that are really important to you.   
  •  Niyama: The 5 niyamas are 
  1. Shauch: Cleanliness & hygiene of inner & outer self. Like water purifies our body, truth purifies our soul & good knowledge purifies our mind.  
  2. Santosha: “Contentment” is the KEY. We should know where to stop. Keeping the balance in work & personal life. 
  3. Tapas: Build tolerance. As tapas teaches us to be tolerant physically & mentally.  
  4. Suwadhyay: Signifies self-reflection through yoga practices. We observe Swadhyay at a mental level & rectify it after realization.  
  5. Ishwar Pranidhana: Surrendering to the higher power, is Ishwar Pranidhana. 
  •  Pranayama: In Sanskrit, prana means “vital life force”, and yama means to gain control. Controlling your breath is a bridge between mind & body. There are various types of breathing techniques in Yoga that help relax our mind and release our tension/stress.
  • Asana: An asana is a body posture, varying from reclining, standing, inverted, twisting, and balancing poses. Asanas are taken from nature. A few asanas to improve Mental health are:
  1. Child Pose: This asana stimulates your nervous system thereby re-energizing your whole body. This asana is basically a resting pose somehow resembling a child in a fetal position.   
  2. Vipareetakaraniasana: This inverted pose is one of the best yoga asanas for improving blood circulation towards the head. It helps to calm anxiety, treat depression and insomnia besides regulating the blood flow.   
  3. Hasta Utthanasana:  This yoga pose is thought to be therapeutic for people suffering from high blood pressure, asthma, sinusitis, infertility and osteoporosis. It also helps to relieve mild depression and beat insomnia as it is highly beneficial as a relaxation tool.  
  4. Shavasana: This pose is typically performed at the end of yoga routines and helps boost mental health and relaxes the body. Lie flat on your back, keeping the body straight and hands at the sides with palms facing upwards. Close your eyes and hold the position for at least five minutes. 
  5. Tadasan: Standing like a palm tree helps improve focus & concentration, along with improving the body balance & align the spinal cord.  
  •  Pratyahara: Keep your senses away from sensual pleasures. This includes all 5 senses: Taste, Touch, Hear, Watch and Smell.
  • Dharna: Focus only on one thing at a time, as floating thoughts distract & builds up awareness & efficiency to improve self-evolution.
  • Dhyan: Dhyan in Sanskrit means meditation. Meditation means being absorbed into anything we do, think, pray, mantra, etc. Meditation has an immense effect on reaching deeper dimensions & improving our mental health if we learn the focusing & De-focusing technique. Start with 5 min of meditation then slowly, increase to 10-15min.
  • Samadhi: Samadhi in Sanskrit, means total bliss. Dharna-Dhyana-Samadhi. 

These are few disciplines we must follow to calm down our mind and improve our focus & concentration. Try following these practices slowly but keep the flow consistent to maximize the result of Yoga on our mental health.  

Stay Happy & Healthy! 

Written by Ananya Bhattacharya, ENHAPP Wellness Coach & Nutritionist 

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