It’s not often you find an activity that provides the mental health benefits of exercise, meditation and therapy in one fell swoop. But that’s what makes yoga so special. This ancient practice has been known to reduce anxiety, lessen symptoms of depression, and contribute to a better night’s sleep. Not to mention there’s scientific proof that links engaging in enjoyable leisure activities to better psychological and physical well-being.
Better mental health, a fun new hobby, plus the potential to increase your flexibility? In case you’re still not convinced, here are seven reasons why you should pick up a yoga practice.
What Are the Mental Health Benefits of Yoga?
1. Yoga Aids in Stress Relief
Now, more than ever, people are stressed out. Not only does yoga provide a physical outlet for stress, but it has also been scientifically proven to decrease the toll stress takes on the mind. A 2018 study on the effect of yoga on stress reported that 52 women saw their stress levels significantly decrease after 12 sessions of regular hatha yoga practice. (Hatha is one style of yoga, and the type most commonly practiced at studios.)
2. Yoga Helps Reduce Anxiety
Anxiety can take quite a toll on the body. Luckily, there’s a branch of yoga for that! A 2018 study on the impact of yoga nidra, a slow and meditative-style movement, showed conclusive evidence that it was able to reduce symptoms of anxiety among its participants. Sometimes yoga classes will also incorporate nadi shodhana, or alternate nostril breathing, which helps slow your heartbeat and can lessen the symptoms of panic attacks and anxiety.
3. Yoga Lessens Depressive Symptoms
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), depression affects as much as 3.8% of the population. Unfortunately, right now it’s harder than ever to receive treatment for mental health-related illnesses. That’s where yoga comes into play. A 2017 study on the treatment of major depressive disorder with Iyengar yoga found that after 12 weeks of regular practice, there was a significant decline in depressive symptoms. Iyengar yoga focuses heavily on alignment, precision, and holding poses for longer periods of time.
Check out this 10 minute sunrise yoga sequence and start your morning off right!
4. Yoga Builds Confidence and Self-Esteem
As a child, it’s perfectly normal to try new hobbies and put yourself in new settings. These types of interactions become less frequent in adulthood, and suddenly the thought of heading to a new hobby—gulp—by yourself(!) can bring up some major anxiety. So the sheer act of walking into a yoga studio for the first time is already a major confidence booster. Once you start improving your yoga skills, and learning how to get into poses that you once thought impossible, your self-esteem will skyrocket.
5. Yoga Makes Meditation Easier
Beyond the fancy poses, one of the most important aspects of yoga is the focus on the breath (this is known as pranayama). Throughout class you’ll match your breath to your movement (also called asanas), helping you focus and clear out any negative thoughts in your mind. That’s why yoga is sometimes referred to as a “moving meditation,” and is great for people looking to reap the benefits of meditation but have a hard time sitting still. In fact, yoga was originally used as a way to prepare the body for the stillness of longer, more formal meditations.
6. Yoga Contributes to Better Sleep
Yoga can also help you get a better night’s sleep, which is important because sleep is crucial for mental and physical wellness. Specifically, the slow and steady yoga nidra has been shown to work as successful adjunct therapy for people with chronic insomnia. Of course exercise has been shown to improve sleep quality, so if you’re looking for something a bit more vigorous, try out vinyasa-style yoga (aka more aerobic and energetic).
7. Yoga Improves Social Life
It can be hard to make friends as an adult. Joining a yoga studio and sticking with a regular schedule allows you to see the same people often, which makes sparking up small talk easier. You already know you and your classmates have a love of yoga in common—what else might you have in common? It’s also typical for yoga studios to host after-hours social events where mingling and chatting is encouraged.
Become a Health Coach
Want to learn more about the role mental health plays in overall wellness? Join HCI’s Become a Health and Life Coach program to learn about health, wellness, diet and nutrition. For those looking to make a career shift, you can begin coaching in as little as six months. If you’re already a coach and want to advance your skills, check out HCI’s Coach Mastery program. Feel free to get in touch with one of our clarity coaches directly by calling 1-800-303-2399.