The Mental Health Benefits Of Yoga

Yoga is one of the most cleansing and therapeutic sports there is, as anyone who practises it will attest to. Here, in no particular order, are the mental health benefits of yoga.

Stimulates the nervous system

Your clients are likely to encounter a number of stresses in their day-to-day lives, and many of them are likely to deal with these stresses by adopting a ‘fight or flight’ mental reflex.

This reflex comes from the ‘sympathetic’ nervous system, one of two components within the central nervous system. When this system is overworked, the body’s stress hormone cortisol is produced, which leads to a ‘fight or flight’ response in the brain.

However, yoga can reduce this response by lowering cortisol levels and activating the ‘parasympathetic’ nervous system, which restores balance to your breathing, heart rate and blood pressure.

In short, more yoga equals more chance of feeling relaxed!

Aids emotional release

Yoga isn’t just about releasing tight muscles – it also helps release suppressed emotions which have built up over time.

Your clients may initially find processing these emotions discomforting, but this is perfectly natural. Bringing these emotions to the surface through yoga allows them to be completely freed from the body.

Some of the yoga disciplines which trigger emotional release include Asana, Pratyahara and Pranayama.

However, you should practice these disciplines cautiously with certain clients, particularly those who’ve experienced traumatic events in their life. Too much emotional release could cause serious distress and ultimately, yoga classes should not replace therapy.

Make this clear before each class and practise one technique at a time to enable your clients to gradually experience yoga’s full range of emotional benefits.

Minimises anxiety symptoms

There are some truly inspiring case studies of people who’ve used yoga as a treatment for their anxiety.

Some of the relaxation strategies associated with yoga – such as breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation and visualisation – have been proven to reduce feelings of anxiety.

This is because yoga increases levels of the amino acid GABA in the thalamus, a small structure within the brain which is responsible for the regulation of consciousness and sleep. Higher levels of GABA help lower anxiety and respiration rates, in turn improving your mood.

Furthermore, yoga creates activity in the anterior cingulate cortex, an area that governs rational thinking and emotion. What’s not to love about that?

Helps heal trauma and PTSD

As explained above, yoga can’t heal trauma on its own, but it can certainly go a long way towards healing its symptoms.

A common symptom of trauma is ‘disassociation’, whereby you feel disconnected from yourself and the world around you.

This sensation often occurs when people have flashbacks of tumultuous life events, which causes their bodies to put up a guard to cope with the stress of reliving these events.

Thankfully, yoga lessens this sensation by keeping you connected to your mind, body, and surroundings.

This enables you to be in control of your own thoughts, without letting uncomfortable internal sensations take over.

Alleviates depression

Through its ability to lower the body’s cortisol levels, yoga also helps combat depression.

It enhances the production of brain derived neutrophic factor (BDNF), a nerve growth agent which stimulates serotonin production. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter which is closely linked to happiness and is believed to help regulate mood. You get where we’re going with this…

A study from researchers at Boston University found that taking yoga classes twice a week can ease depression.

Asana is of the best yoga practises for alleviating depression, as it reduces stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline, thus inducing what’s known as the relaxation response.

Boosts self-esteem

We all know how integral strong self-esteem is to our mental health, and yoga is a great way to boost self-esteem.

By allowing you to look within yourself, yoga helps you build self-trust and develop a non-judgemental state of mind.

You also feel a sense of achievement from executing difficult poses, improving posture and feeling comfortable in your own skin.

All of this is achieved through patience, discipline and focus. Knowing you can apply these three thinking skills is bound to make you feel confident in yourself!

Not only are your clients boosting their self-esteem by practising yoga, they’re doing so as part of a community. This in itself helps improve the self-esteem of people who would otherwise be inclined to spend time alone.

Reduces the effects of dementia

Anyone with a family member who suffers or has suffered from dementia will tell you how discomforting it is.

This onset of memory loss is intensified by the emotional difficulty of coming to terms with cognitive impairment. In other words, if you feel like you’re losing your memory or can’t mentally function like you used to, this can trigger feelings of anxiety and depression.

But as we’ve touched on already, yoga is ideal for alleviating these feelings. It can also minimise the moderate to severe anxiety in midlife, which is linked to dementia in later life.

In fact, yoga is more effective than brain training games in keeping dementia at bay, according to research from the University of Adelaide – bet you weren’t expecting that!

If you’re a yoga instructor, you want to teach with total peace of mind, rather than worrying about what could go wrong. That’s why, at Insure4Sport, we provide specialist yoga insurance to protect you against a myriad of incidents.

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