Meet Sarah. Certified yoga teacher, singer-songwriter, previous national spokesperson, and someone who has struggled with intense anxiety and depression.
After years of pushing through university, then heavy work loads and jet lag, Sarah reached a tipping point. Fighting her own pride, she sought help. “Through a Mental Health Day Program I learned mindfulness and where my anxiety was rooted, and was able to pinpoint the triggers in my life. And while in the program I sought yoga practice, which had taught me mindfulness. Using my breathe to be present enabled me to let go of my “worries”.
She shares was us her first-hand understanding of how Yoga can help you. Here are 5 ways yoga can benefit your mental health.
1. Gives you peace of mind
Yoga slows the mental loops of frustration, regret, anger, fear, and desire that can cause stress. It helps you move from a flight-or-flight mindset to rest-and-digest. Yoga allows us to clear the mind through the focus on breath work (pranayama) which helps us emotionally “let go” and reset which helps you enter a more relaxed state. As soon as you start breathing deeply you are able to calm your nervous system. Since stress is implicated in so many health issues, learning to quiet your mind is likely to help you live healthier, longer and peacefully.
2. Increases your self-esteem
Many of us suffer from chronic to low self-esteem. Yogic philosophy teaches that you are a manifestation of the Divine. If you practice regularly with an intention of self-examination and betterment you can access a different side of yourself.
Through yoga you can come to cultivate a more nonjudgmental relationship with you. You build self-trust. You exercise more and eat healthier because your unconscious mind tells you, “I’m worthy.” You’ll experience feelings of gratitude, empathy, and forgiveness, as well as a sense that you’re part of something bigger.
3. Makes you happier
Feeling sad? Studies have proven that Yoga can help you with that. One study found that a consistent yoga practice improved depression and led to a significant increase in serotonin levels and a decrease in the levels of monoamine oxidase (an enzyme that breaks down neurotransmitters) and cortisol. At the University of Wisconsin, Richard Davidson, Ph.D., found that the left prefrontal cortex showed heightened activity in meditators, a finding that has been correlated with greater levels of happiness and better immune function. More dramatic left-sided activation was found in dedicated, long-term practitioners.
4. Helps you focus
Focusing on the present is an important component of yoga. Regular yoga practice improves coordination, reaction time, memory, and not surprisingly, even IQ scores. When you’re less distracted by endlessly looping thoughts it is going to be far easier to focus on moving forward and getting things done.
5. Helps you sleep better
We all know what it’s like to struggle through a day after a sleepless night or two. We are sluggish, sloppy and can be prone to accidents. Yoga practices that encourage meditation and turning inward of the senses provides downtime for your nervous system. Yoga strengthens your body and makes you more flexible, making sleepless night due to pain fewer and farther between. A regular yoga practice, studies suggest, will also help improve the quality of your sleep.
There are far more benefits to adding Yoga to your routine, like improving your blood sugar, burning calories and improving your body strength.
Sarah’s Yoga Studio, AnahataYogaFromtheHeart.com has a mission to support those who struggle with life obstacles and mental illness.
The “Pay it Forward” is a community class offered for all, and was created specifically for those who, for the moment, can’t afford the full class fee. Check out her schedule and join a class today.