What Does The Research Say About Yoga And Mental Health
Tons of work has been conducted on the impacts of yoga on mental health.
The overall consensus is that yoga has many positive effects on mental health that go beyond the effects of other low- to-medium-impact physical activity and these effects are likely due to chemical changes in the brain .
It turns out that practicing yoga actually facilitates a greater release of gamma-Aminobutyric acid from the thalamus GABA acts as a sort of grand inhibitor of the brain, suppressing neural activity.
This can mimic the effects of anti-anxiety drugs and alcoholyep, doing yoga can make you feel like you just had a nice, relaxing cocktail! This finding indicates that yoga can actually work to help to reset your brain to a calmer, more collected state, giving you the baseline mood you need to deal with the stress you encounter every day .
Yoga makes an excellent alternative or complementary treatment for issues that require medication and/or therapy, as it is natural, accessible for all, and relatively easy to engage in. In addition, it is a good choice because it is one of the few treatment activities that connect the mind to the body.
In therapy, you generally dont use your body in any significant way when taking medication, you generally dont emphasize the mind-body connection, or even think about it muchafter all, you just hope it works, and you may not care much how it works!
The most important pieces of equipment you need for doing yoga are your body and your mind.
Yoga And Mental Health
More than any other aspect of yoga, researchers have investigated how it affects individuals with mental health conditions. The results are overwhelmingly encouraging, suggesting that yoga helps improve mental health issues, including anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder, among others.
Complementing such findings are ground-breaking studies which suggest yoga practice is correlated with changes in the structure and function of the brain. These measurable neuroplastic changes are not just exciting and vindicating, they also show why and how yoga can benefit people who are struggling with their emotional health.
The following ways yoga supports mental health are based upon research that includes the physical practice.
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What Is Already Known
There is an urgent need to improve physical and mental health for people with diagnosed mental disorders. This is a priority for clinicians, healthcare services, researchers and policy makers.
There is evidence to support exercise and mindfulness as singular therapies for improving depressive symptoms.
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Yoga For Pain Conditions
Yoga may help relieve low-back pain and neck pain, but it has not been shown to be helpful for some other painful conditions such as headache, arthritis, fibromyalgia, or carpal tunnel syndrome.
- Fibromyalgia. Recent systematic reviews and randomized clinical trials provide encouraging evidence that some mind and body practices such as yoga may help relieve some fibromyalgia symptoms.
- In 2017, the European League Against Rheumatism evaluated non-pharmacologic therapies, including complementary health approaches, and issued revised recommendations for the management of fibromyalgia. The strength of these recommendation is based on the balance between desirable and undesirable effects , confidence in the magnitude of effects, and resource use. A strong recommendation implies that, if presented with the evidence, all or almost all informed persons would make the recommendation for or against the therapy, while a weak recommendation would imply that most people would, although a substantial minority would not. Based on the evaluation of acupuncture, meditative movement practices , and mindfulness-based stress reduction, the recommendation for each was weak for use of the therapy.
- A 2015 Cochrane review of 61 trials involving 4,234 predominantly female participants with fibromyalgia concluded that the effectiveness of biofeedback, mindfulness, movement therapies , and relaxation techniques remains unclear as the quality of evidence was low or very low.
Yoga’s Physical Benefits To The Brain And Body
As a form of low-impact exercise, yoga has been shown to lower stress hormones in our bodies while simultaneously increasing beneficial brain chemicals like endorphins and GABA . These feel-good chemicals help decrease anxiety and improve mood.
Over time, yoga’s effects also are believed to slow the natural aging process there is less brain shrinkage in the areas of the brain that process information and store memories, Dr. Keenmon says. “Making yoga a part of our lives can help protect against the effects of aging on our memory and cognition.”
Researchers compared brain imaging and chemical measurements in people who do yoga for 45 minutes to others who practiced a sedentary form of relaxation like listening to music or reading. The levels of good brain chemicals are higher in those who practiced yoga, Dr. Keenmon says.
“Yoga can help lower our fight, flight or freeze response by activating our parasympathetic nervous system and lowering negative emotions like depression, anxiety and anger,” she says.
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Choosing The Right Level Of Practice
There are over 100 different types of yoga, and practitioners can choose from a variety of levels to suit their physical ability and medical needs. Beginner classes are available to allow individuals who have never done yoga before to benefit from this ancient health-promoting practice. Intermediate and higher level classes are also available, so you can continue your yoga practice as you gain in strength and flexibility.
With such so many positive health effects of yoga, it becomes understandable why it has enjoyed increasing popularity. People of all ages and ability levels can reap the rewards of this calm and rejuvenating activity. Many medical professionals have embraced yoga as a recommended exercise even for patients who have conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes. Ask your doctor if yoga would be right for you, so you can benefit from this ancient, but highly relevant physical regime for maintaining health in the modern age.
Risks Of A Yoga Practice
Yoga is a low-risk activity, but it can cause injuries, primarily sprains or strains. Poor technique, pre-existing conditions, or simply trying too hard can cause injury. Some injuries may be traced to teachers with inadequate training. The risk of injury doesn’t keep most yoga fans from their practice. Among those who have been hurt while practicing yoga, fewer than 1% gave it up.
The risks of yoga are higher for older individuals, who may have less muscle strength and lower bone density. You should talk to your doctor about your exercise program if you experience injuries. Also, you should never use yoga practice as a substitute for medical care.
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Laya Yoga And Kundalini Yoga
Laya and kundalini yoga are closely associated with Hatha yoga but are often presented as being independent approaches.
According to Georg Feuerstein, laya yoga “makes meditative absorption its focus. The laya-yogin seeks to transcend all memory traces and sensory experiences by dissolving the microcosm, the mind, in the transcendental Self-Consciousness.” There are various forms and techniques of Laya yoga, including listening to the “inner sound” , practicing various mudras like Khechari mudra and Shambhavi mudra as well as techniques meant to awaken a spiritual energy in the body .
The practice of awakening the coiled energy in the body is sometimes specifically called Kundalini yoga. It is based on Indian theories of the subtle body and uses various pranayamas and mudras to awaken the energy known as kundalini or shakti. In various Shaiva and Shakta traditions of yoga and tantra, yogic techniques or yuktis are used to unite kundalini-shakti, the divine conscious force or energy, with Shiva, universal consciousness. A common way of teaching this method is to awaken the kundalini residing at the lowest chakra and to guide it through the central channel to unite with the absolute consciousness at the highest chakra .
Cosa C’ Di Meglio Per L’ansia Yoga O La Meditazione
Una revisione sistematica e successivi studi randomizzati controllati mostrano effetti positivi coerenti dello yoga sui disturbi d’ansia rispetto al placebo in piccoli studi imperfetti. Tai chi, qigong e meditazione non hanno mostrato efficacia come trattamenti alternativi per la depressione o l’ansia.
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How Yoga Changes The Brain
Trials on yogic meditation and brain functioning have been conducted since the 1960s, but a landmark moment was a study by Chris Streeter and his team in 2007. Their work revealed that just one hour of yoga asana practice by experienced yoga practitioners was correlated with statistically significant increases in GABA, a chemical that acts as your brains chief inhibitory neurotransmitter. In 2010, Streeter compared the metabolically matched exercise of walking with yoga and found that a session of yoga significantly increased GABA levels in comparison to walking.
The value of this chemical is a curious one: it inhibits signals in the brain, rather than promoting them. In effect, it prevents your brain from becoming too busy, inhibiting fear circuits and stray thoughts often associated with anxiety and depression. People with chronic pain, anxiety, post-traumatic stress, and depression express low levels of GABA, manifesting as an inability to shift perception and physiological reactions. Streeters findings support yogas usage for all these conditions, while highlighting yogas potential benefit over other types of physical activity.
How To Use Yoga To Improve Your Mental Health
The best way to learn yoga is with a qualified teacher, either in a private session or in a group. A yoga teacher can correct your poses and show you how to modify them if necessary. You can use blocks, straps, and other items to make some poses easier. You can even do yoga in a chair instead of on the floor.
It’s also possible to learn yoga online or from a book or DVD. But the best way to avoid injury is to take an in-person yoga class. Once you have the basics down, you can use books and videos to help you practice. You will benefit more from yoga if you do it at home between classes, and online classes can keep your home practice interesting. If you are comfortable doing yoga at home, you can practice when you experience extra stress, sleeplessness, or other challenges.
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Musculoskeletal Functioning And Pain
There were 3 systematic reviews and 2 other reviews on the effects of yoga on musculoskeletal function, chronic pain conditions, and pain-associated disability . Two reviews specifically addressed low back pain or arthritis , while the other reviews summarized studies on various chronic pain conditions, most with a focus on musculoskeletal conditions and associated disability.
Posadzki et al. included 11 RCTs with variable methodological quality and found that 10 of 11 studies reported significantly greater effects in favor of yoga when compared to standard care, self care, therapeutic exercises, relaxing yoga, touch and manipulation, or no intervention. A recent meta-analysis on pain intensity/frequency, and pain-related disability included 5 RCTs with single blinding, 7 RCTs without blinding, and 4 non-RCTs . Reviewed studies included yoga for the treatment of back pain , rheumatoid arthritis , headache/migraine , and other indications . All of these studies reported positive effects in favor of the yoga interventions. There were moderate treatment effects with respect to 5 pain , and pain-related disability . Despite some study limitations, there was evidence that yoga may be useful for several pain-associated disorders. Thus, well-designed larger scale studies with adequate controls for confounding factors and more thorough statistical analyses are needed to verify these promising findings.
Practicing Yoga Improves Focus
Practicing yoga for only 20 minutes can give your brain a boost.
One study followed 30 female undergraduate students that completed a 20-minute yoga session and 20 minutes of aerobic exercise on a treadmill. While the treadmill session resulted in no significant memory improvements, the yoga session led to improved performance on speed and accuracy tests.
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Top 5 Yoga Mental Health Benefits
Stories about increasing levels of anxiety and anxious feelings populate the headlines in the U.S., as do articles recommending various ways to alleviate those feelings. One great option is the brain-boosting power of yoga. There are many who practice yoga who will tell you that the practice has changed the way they feel and think on a daily basis. But, to be more specific, how does yoga affect your mental health?
Check out these top five mental health benefits of yoga.
1. Relief from depression and anxiety
Because yoga is a combination of exercise, meditation, relaxation, and even socialization, it’s a wonderful way to relieve anxiety and/or depression.
Plus, yoga has the ability to reduce your heart rate, respiration rate, and blood pressure, thereby relaxing you and easing your anxiety and nervousness without having to use prescription drugs.
2. Reduce the effects of PTSD and similar conditions
Yoga may also help you deal with myriad types of stress, including Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder .
A study by researchers at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto, Canada and Brigham and Women’s Hospital at Harvard Medical School found that participants in a kundalini yoga program showed greater changes in measures of sleep, positive affect, perceived stress, anxiety, stress, and resilience than those who didnt do yoga.
3. Boost concentration, focus, and memory
4. Improve your mood
5. Keep your brain young
Ready to improve your body and brain with yoga?
Maintaining A Regular Yoga Practice Can Provide Physical And Mental Health Benefits
Learn about the different types of yoga and how it can be used as a tool to help you stay healthy.
Like yoga, the osteopathic approach to wellness focuses on your bodys natural tendency toward health and self-healing.
The purpose of yoga is to build strength, awareness and harmony in both the mind and body, explains Natalie Nevins, DO, a board-certified osteopathic family physician and certified Kundalini Yoga instructor in Hollywood, California.
While there are more than 100 different types, or schools, of yoga, most sessions typically include breathing exercises, meditation, and assuming postures that stretch and flex various muscle groups.
As an osteopathic physician, I focus a lot of my efforts on preventive medicine and practices, and in the bodys ability to heal itself, says Dr. Nevins. Yoga is a great tool for staying healthy because its based on similar principles.
Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine, or DOs, focus on prevention by examining how your lifestyle and environment impact your health, rather than just treating your symptoms.
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Yoga Reduces Stress Anxiety And Depression
One of the most significant benefits of a yoga practice is a reduction in symptoms associated with depression and anxiety. This article from the American Psychological Association explores several research studies that found lower depressive symptoms amongst yoga-practicing participants.
Yoga has even been proven effective for people suffering from chronic, treatment-resistant depression. However, its important to remember that yoga is most effective as a complementary approach to other therapies.
Lindsey Hopkins, PhD, of the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center, notes, at this time, we can only recommend yoga as a complementary approach, likely most effective in conjunction with standard approaches delivered by a licensed therapist. Clearly, yoga is not a cure-all. However, based on empirical evidence, there seems to be a lot of potential.
Improves Quality Of Life
Nowadays, Yoga is common as an adjunct therapy in improving the quality of life for many people across the world. People who practice Yoga on an everyday basis have improved mood and fatigue levels.
Additionally, it has been observed that Yoga reduces post-chemotherapy symptoms like vomiting and nausea which improves the overall Quality of Life. Yoga improves the level of acceptance, relaxation, and invigoration. It is one of the common mental health benefits of yoga.
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The Mental Health Benefits Of Yoga
Yoga Benefits Melissa Mercedes
If you practice yoga, then you most likely have experienced the high that yoga offersthat feeling like you are grounded in your body, calm, connected, clear, and centered. In this space, it might feel like a dark cloud that was following you around prior to class has suddenly disappeared. Or, that negative thought, emotion, or physical sensation eating away at you has miraculously subsided. You float away from your practice, and no unwanted experience can detract from your calm and peace. This is why yoga is often touted for its calming and relaxing effects on both mind and body.
Above and beyond the calm and relaxation, you also may have experienced a deeper connection between your mind and body, as well as more intimacy with your internal experiences, e.g., thoughts, emotions and physical sensations. And, perhaps you have noticed that with this deeper connection and intimacy comes less judgment and evaluation of those internal experiences. This process translates into that state of bliss we experience after our practice, and arguably leads to less suffering in our lives . Hence, yoga for mental health has received increasing attention from both yogis and scientists alike, with the benefits of yoga for mental health traversing several areas ranging from mood and anxiety disorders to stress reduction.
The Benefits Of Yoga: How It Boosts Your Mental Health
For more than a decade, Houston Methodist’s medical director of psychiatry and telepsychiatry has relied on yoga and its healing powers to help maintain her own mental and physical fitness. As one who deals daily with patients suffering mental health crises, Dr. Corinna Keenmon’s profession demands that she maintain focus, clarity, compassion and sound judgment even on the worst days.
“Yoga seems to have this powerful combination of the physical movement combined with the deep breathing, meditation and mindfulness aspect,” Dr. Keenmon explains. “This total package helps us physically by increasing flexibility, along with heart and brain health. Plus, the cognitive and emotional improvements that happen over time are priceless.”
Yoga’s mind-body practice dates back thousands of years and has dozens of different types. But its basic premise seeks relaxation through breathing and meditation combined with stretching and strengthening poses. Regular practitioners tout yoga’s ability to help them with everything from mood and emotions to muscle tone, endurance and strength.
And science backs these claims.
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