- Yoga is good for mental health as well as physical health.
- Deep breathing and focusing on poses can calm stress, help with issues such as anxiety and depression.
- Yoga's mind/body therapeutic aspect can benefit patients coping with serious illness.
At a time when yoga studios are in practically every town, yoga pants have replaced jeans in many women's daily wardrobes and the variety of classes sounds like a page from "Green Eggs and Ham" (You can practice with a goat! While you float!), it's easy to forget that yoga is much more than a fitness craze. Yoga is grounding and spiritual, and that foundation can have long-lasting mental health benefits.
Take stress, for instance. The fight-or-flight response can have several different effects on the body, from sweating to an elevated heart rate. All those responses are triggered when the brain perceives stress, so keeping the mind relaxed during a crisis helps you manage stress in a healthier way. Yoga can help relax the body and soothe the mind. Yoga is also good for maintaining a healthy balance in a busy life, which can be helpful when you feel overwhelmed by life's responsibilities such as work and parenting.
Yoga can also be helpful with mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. If your brain is churning with negative thoughts, yoga is a way to calm the chaos by focusing on poses and centering yourself with deep, regulated, cleansing breaths. With a clear mind, it's easier to adopt a positive outlook.
Another great thing about yoga is that it can be practiced by any one at any age, which is also important for mental health. For kids stressed out by loads of homework, standardized tests and keeping up with social media, yoga is a good time out from all of that. For people in senior age, exercise is crucial for not only keeping their bodies fit but their minds sharp as well. Yoga is good for maintaining balance--which can help prevent dangerous falls--and it is easily adaptable for aging bodies, with classes such as gentle yoga or even chair yoga.
This kind of mind/body therapy makes yoga a good tool for people coping with serious disease or illness, such as multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's and cancer. Some yoga poses can double as stretching exercises for people with chronic pain, helping to restore muscle function as well as flexibility. Again, the spiritual roots of yoga can help these patients on emotional and mental levels, as well as physical.
Complementary Therapy: What can you do to reduce your pain?
Read and download the Swedish STOMP Pain Management Guide (“Structuring Your Own Management of Pain”).
Yoga has many wonderful benefits, and it's easy to incorporate into your fitness routine. Take a class and take the opportunity to focus on yourself and your mental health. The toned muscles you'll get from yoga are just a bonus.
Learn more about health classes at Swedish, including gentle yoga, lifestyle management, and therapeutic flow yoga to help you on your path to wellness.
This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your health care professional's instructions.