As well as the physical benefits of improved flexibility, balance and strength, there are a range of psychological benefits that can be achieved through practicing yoga. From reduced stress to relieved symptoms of depression, yoga is a popular form of exercise for enhancing mental health.
With spiritual and philosophical roots, yoga places emphasis on breathing practices and meditation, both of which have calming effects that can lead to improved mental wellbeing.
In this guide we take a look at the ways in which yoga can boost your mental health and help you lead a healthier lifestyle.
Research shows that the two core elements of yoga, deep breathing and stretching, are effective methods for easing common symptoms of depression, such as improved sleep and enhanced mood.
Not only can yoga improve your sleep quality, but studies have shown that it can also increase your sleep quantity. Many Yoga movements involve stretching, and relaxing muscles, resulting in both metal and physical exertion. This release of tensions is believed to allow for a deeper and less disturbed sleep.
Similar to other forms of exercise, yoga releases endorphins, providing your brain with more oxygenated blood. These feel good chemicals help to boost your mood. As well as releasing endorphins, yoga is also known to elevate forms of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a brain chemical which is associated with better moods.
Practicing yoga and meditation can help to manage both acute and chronic stress. Yoga encourages you to relax, slow down your breathing and focus on the present, which shifts the balance to the parasympathetic system, from the sympathetic nervous system causing a relaxation response in your body to stressful situations rather than a flight-or-fight response. Studies have also found that yoga can reduce levels of the stress hormone, cortisol.
The core movements in yoga aim to release tension, which paired with deep breathing and the peaceful atmosphere of a yoga class, create a calming effect and helps to reduce stress levels.
Yoga is also proven to reduce anxiety and is considered an effective tool for managing generalized anxiety disorders. Anxiety disorders are closely linked to and often triggered by stress. As yoga lowers stress levels with reduced levels of cortisol, and a balance shift towards the parasympathetic system, anxiety is also lowered in line with these changes.
The Echelon fit app features a wide range of live and on demand yoga classes lead by our world class instructors. In addition to our traditional vinyasa and restorative yoga classes, we also have slow flow yoga and athletic yoga classes, which are designed for individuals of all fitness abilities. Join the Echelon fit community today and start your journey towards leading a healthy lifestyle.
Whilst there are a number of scientific studies that have found yoga successfully reduces anxiety and depression, we would recommend speaking to your GP if you are struggling with these conditions. For emergency support, please call the Samaritans on 116 123.