Yoga tones the body and improves flexibility. Those results aren’t a (wait for it…) stretch, when you’re tucking your legs behind your head and balancing on one foot for minutes on end. But did you know that yoga also benefits mental health and has lasting positive effects on brain chemistry and emotional balance? Read on to find out how every “Ohm” brings you closer to clarity.
One of the tenets of yoga (including hatha, vinyasa, and any type in between) is focused breathing. Yoga practitioners believe that controlled breathing can calm the mind and prepare the body to explore its capabilities. The rhythm of inhale and exhale creates a meter by which your body can regulate itself, and a constant to focus on as you strain to reach difficult poses. The simple act of breathing can slow down a racing brain and bring you into the present moment. Placing yourself in that quiet place of non-stress on a regular basis promotes mental health on and off the mat.
The constant flow of movement involved in yoga promotes circulation, bringing more oxygen to the brain and increasing the production of endorphins. This has very positive minimizing effects on symptoms of depression and anxiety. Not only that – short-term memory, mental acuity, multi-tasking, and concentration all show an upswing thanks to downward-facing dog.
Sleep quality will also improve as well with regular yoga practice. As we all know, a good night’s sleep is one of our most potent weapons in fighting stress, health issues, aging, and even weight loss. Studies have shown marked benefits to length and quality of sleep thanks to yoga, and as a result, better alertness during the day.
Even more serious mental health issues can be addressed in yoga. Many studies, particularly a recent one at Harvard, have proven that amateur yogis have a decreased overall response to stress and are less prone to stress-based symptoms and illnesses. Soldiers experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), are likely to find relief from yoga; by encouraging reflection, control, and healing in a non-stigmatized environment, they can find coping mechanisms for their trauma and become better equipped to deal with stimuli in the outside world.
Additionally, it has been found that adults suffering from schizophrenia were able to better handle their illness with yoga skills. The meditative aspect helps to decrease aggressive tendencies, promote willingness to take medication, and supply sufferers with the focus to manage their various symptoms. Binge-eating and other self-destructive eating behaviors also decrease when paired with yoga, a probable side effect of strengthening the healthy body and finding more mental peace.
Best of all, clearing the mind has positive secondary effects on the body as well. Twisting your body requires muscle relaxation and focus, which can lower your blood pressure and improve your heart health. Your improved posture and breathing will have lasting good effects on your bone health. And finding that special “me” time, an oasis of quiet in your busy life helps to center you and help define personal goals – even beyond clearing your body and mind.
Shawn is one of the most popular personal trainers in Los Angeles with a client list that includes various celebrities and athletes. He is the founder of Perfect Body, Inc., has been a fitness spokesperson for Time Warner manages three health and fitness web sites, was featured four times on KCAL 9 news “9 on the town”, was featured on CBS radio 97.1 numerous times, has appeared on a variety of cable shows, and runs a successful personal training practice.