Five ways yoga improves your mind

Take advantage of the mind/body connection with regular yoga practice

  • Yoga provides numerous mental health benefits.
  • Poses, gentle movement, and deep breathing alleviate anxiety, stress and depression.
  • The therapeutic aspect of yoga can benefit patients coping with serious illnesses.

[2 MIN READ]

Yoga is more than just a good excuse to wear really comfortable pants. Yoga is both grounding and spiritual, and regular practice can have long-lasting mental health benefits.

We sat down with Allison Taylor, MSW, LICSW, CYA-RYT200, a primary care integrated behavioral health provider at Swedish Medical Center, to get her insight into some of the key benefits of regular yoga practice.

Here’s what she shared.

“Yoga is uniquely wonderful for people seeking mental health tools because yoga is highly portable,” said Taylor. “Once you have an understanding of the basics, you don’t need a phone app, a practitioner, or a therapist’s couch to achieve a state of mindfulness. All you need is the ability within your mind and body to put your practiced plans into play.” 

“Once you have an understanding of the basics, you don’t need a phone app, a practitioner, or a therapist’s couch to achieve a state of mindfulness. All you need is the ability within your mind and body to put your practiced plans into play.” 

“Overall, yoga has several well-documented effects on those experiencing anxiety,” said Taylor. Here are five ways that this age-old practice can contribute to your mental and emotional well-being.

Stress relief

When you’re overly stressed, your fight-or-flight response kicks in, flooding your body with the stress-hormone cortisol and causing your body to react in several different ways—anything from excessive sweating to an elevated heart rate. Keeping your mind relaxed during a crisis helps you deal with stress in a healthier way and lessens the urgency of your body’s response.

“Yoga is particularly useful for addressing anxiety because it can help manage acute symptoms like panic and chronic fatigue, muscle tension, sleep disruption, and more,” said Taylor. 

Find balance

Yoga helps you maintain healthy balance in your life, which can be helpful when you feel overwhelmed by all the demands of your day. Regular yoga practice calms your nervous system and slows down the barrage of thoughts that form the foundation of your anxiety and stress.

Improved outlook

Yoga is a proven tool to help manage 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.

No age limit

Anyone can practice yoga—regardless of their age. For overstressed kids struggling with a heavy homework load, school and its associated activities, and the demands of social media, yoga provides a welcome “time out.” For seniors, yoga is good for improving balance, which can help prevent dangerous falls. It’s easily adaptable for aging bodies, with classes that accommodate all levels of ability.

Illness management

The mind/body therapy of yoga is 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. The spiritual roots of yoga can help these patients on emotional and mental levels, as well as physical.

Health benefits

Yoga is good for your health in general. It improves blood flow, circulation, strength and flexibility. Yoga can help lower your cholesterol levels, heart rate, blood pressure and glucose levels, which reduces your risk of heart attack, stroke and numerous chronic illnesses.

“Practicing yoga can lead to psychological benefits like an improved positive outlook, increased mindfulness and more self-awareness,” said Taylor. 

Yoga benefits your body, mind and spirit—and it's easy to incorporate into your regular routine. “Practicing yoga can lead to psychological benefits like an improved positive outlook, increased mindfulness and more self-awareness,” said Taylor. 

Take a class and enjoy the opportunity to focus on yourself and your mental health for just 45 minutes to an hour. Toned muscles and comfy pants 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.

Find a doctor

The doctors at Swedish know that a holistic approach that celebrates the body/mind connection is the most effective way to provide the high level of care you deserve. We offer a wide range of classes and programs that can help you improve both your physical and mental health. Find a doctor you can trust in our provider directory.

Has #yoga made a difference in your #fitness or #health? Share your story @swedish.

Related resources

Benefits of mind-body practices during your healing journey

5 ways to think more positively right now

Video: Complementary Therapy: What can you do to reduce your pain?

This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.

About the Author

Our philosophy for well being is looking at the holistic human experience. As such, the Swedish Wellness & Lifestyle Team is committed to shining a light on health-related topics that help you live your healthiest life. From nutrition to mindfulness to annual screenings, our team offers clinically-backed advice and tips to help you and your loved ones live life to the fullest.

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