HOW YOGA HELPS TO EASE YOUR MIND
Stress, anxiety and concerns about work and family all tend to pile up, leaving us with some huge burdens on our shoulders. They can creep up on us, affecting our mood, making us irritable, leaving us restless and simply putting a damper on our quality of life. How do we begin to even shake these overwhelming feelings off? While there are a multitude of methods out there, one that is simple yet effective is through the practice of yoga.
Yoga has been used for centuries to aid with a myriad of issues, including helping to reduce stress, improve flexibility and concentration, and overall, just offering a sense of restored balance and well-being. However, the benefits do not stop there. Apart from the physical benefits, yoga has proven to provide therapeutic attributes for mental health as well. In fact, researchers are looking into how many individuals turn to it as an effective ‘prescription’ to some common psychotherapy issues.
Just like how certain medications are designed to reduce anxiety and depression, it is important to understand how yoga can be used to tackle some of the same issues.
Throughout the day, irritations are bound to happen. Sometimes, they can even fester and build, rendering us nearly incapacitated by how angry or simply frustrated we are, snowballing even the smallest of problems and turning them into large ones. Odds are, we have all heard the phrase ‘taking a deep breath’ recommended for helping curb some of this frustration. Yoga builds on this adage, encouraging us to not only take a single deep breath but to stop and take several, pairing them with balanced movements and coordinated techniques.
In a study conducted in 2012, it concluded that adolescents increased one’s ability to control their anger when compared to other students who only participated in traditional physical education courses. Practicing yoga has also proven to show a decrease in verbal aggression in adults.
Anxiety can be quite debilitating, clogging our thought process and leaving us with an Eyeore style rain cloud over our heads. This is no way to live life! Thankfully, yoga exists as a coping mechanism for these adverse feelings, reducing the negative effects of anxiety.
In 2014, a study was conducted that focused on 64 women who had post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. After 10 weeks of just once-a-week yoga classes, 52% of the participants no longer met the criteria for PTSD at all.
While it’s not exactly clear how yoga is able to reduce anxiety, much of it mostly attributed to the fact that yoga focuses on breathing control, being present in the moment and taking the time to find a sense of peace.
Yoga is able to help decrease the levels of cortisol present in the body. This is the stress hormone that can affect the amount of serotonin we produce, which is a chemical that is responsible for stabilizing mood and offering up feelings of well-being and overall happiness. When cortisol has a negative influence over serotonin, we aren’t able to feel as upbeat. If this is a chronic issue, it can lead to depression.
In one study, participants from an alcohol dependence and recovery program participated in a specific type of yoga focused on rhythmic breathing. After two weeks, those participants had fewer symptoms of depression and lower levels of cortisol.
IMPROVED SLEEP QUALITY
Sleep can be responsible for affecting so many aspects of our lives. Not only can it leave us fatigued and irritable, but chronic sleep deprivation can lead to other, more serious issues, such as obesity, high blood pressure and depression.
Yoga has been proven to aid in the secretion of melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep and wakefulness. When the body is relaxed and our breathing is focused, we are able to go to bed with a relaxed mind, helping to push out some of the effects of anxiety, depression and stress – three factors that tend to negatively influence and disrupt sleep.
BETTER QUALITY OF LIFE
When all of the aforementioned factors happen, it’s quite obvious how the quality of life can improve as well. Other than the physical and mental implications, some of those who practice yoga site having a boosted spiritual life as well. Many use it as a means to meditate and gain focus over issues that could be affecting their lives, utilizing the stillness and breathing of yoga to really harness control and tranquility.
Now that you’re aware of the mental and spiritual improvements yoga can bring to your life, it’s time for the fun part – signing up for a class!
At Woodside Health and Fitness Club, a KC wellness center, we have many class offerings for yogis of all types. If you’re new to yoga and would like to start slow, we offer a Level 1 course that is designed to help improve flexibility and learn basic poses. From there, Level 2 provides elevated poses linked with breathing techniques intended to maximize stamina and alignment. Finally, Level 3 is the highest degree of experience advised, featuring advanced poses and techniques.
We also offer a wide variety of specialty classes for yoga. These classes, such as Ashtanga, Power and Restorative yoga, focus on a myriad of breathing techniques and postures meant to aid in healing, balance and harmonizing the body’s vital life force, or ‘chi’.
To find a class time that works for you, be sure to check out our monthly course schedule. With classes staggered all throughout the day, finding a way to work a session in should be no issue.
No matter what your experience level is, don’t wait any longer to take up yoga! Mental health is so important, and yoga can be integrated into any regular fitness routine. Whether you like to lift or enjoy cardio or swimming, taking a yoga class even once a week can make the world of difference for every aspect of your health – mental, physical and spiritual.