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How Yoga improves your mental health

Updated: May 9

Science-based evidence that Yoga promotes a positive mental health and helps you live your most fabulous life

It's Mental Health Awareness week in the UK, so this month we're sharing with you a few science-based reasons why Yoga has such a positive impact on your health overall, but especially your mental wellbeing.


I am sure you've heard many people boast about Yoga and how great it is to help you relax and relieve stress, but it's influence on your mental health is a lot deeper than a few exercises and poses that help you alleviate tension and stretch.


Here's how Yoga improves your mental health:



1. Yoga helps you respond better to stress


The practice of Yoga regulates the levels of cortisol in your body. Cortisol is an hormone produced in the adrenal glands (found above the kidneys) that plays a crucial role in the way we respond to stressors, since it's released every time we face emergency situations to activate our "fight and flight" response and ensure our survival.


Cortisol increases blood pressure and pauses all the other body functions of repair and restoration to ensure we have enough energy to respond to the stressor. This hormone is crucial to our existence but when we're constantly under stress, the levels of cortisol in the blood spike and have a negative impact on our wellbeing, causing rapid heartbeat or shortness of breath, for example.


Yoga ensures the levels of cortisol in your body are always in balance, allowing you to react more objectively to stress and prevent many of the negative effects.



2. Yoga promotes positive states of mind and reduces anxiety


"In your calm is your strength" – German Proverb

There is plenty of evidence to support that people experience an improved mood after they attend a Yoga class. In fact, a study reported that 87% of practitioners stated that they felt better and noticed an improvement of their wellbeing right after a Yoga session.


But if you practice Yoga regularly, you'll notice that this improvement in mood and overall positive emotional state sustains overtime. This has to do with the fact that through Yoga, you learn to take charge of your thoughts and redirect them as needed, calming the mind and empowering you to self-regulate and self-soothe when you're feeling anxious or down.



3. Yoga prevents and delays the ageing of brain cells


The practice of Yoga is proven to increase the density of Grey Matter in the brain where your brain cells "live".


In simple terms, the denser and thicker the Grey Matter is, the more brain cells you have in your brain and greater the chances that your brain will preform better for longer.


In addition, the practice of Meditation and Yoganidrā (guided relation techniques), help restore and repair neuro transmitters and promote the creation of new brain connections.


If you'd like to know more about the effects Meditation and Yoga have in the brain, I recommend you read a blog by Yoga Medicine here.


4. Yoga decreases inflammation in the brain associated with depression and other mental health disorders


Evidence shows that Yoga lowers the levels of inflammatory chemicals in the brain, promoting instead the release of "feel-good" hormones and neuro transmitters such as dopamine, endorphins, serotonin and oxytocin. These hormones are called "feel-good" because they help you relax and feel better about yourself and your wellbeing.


To read more on this topic and how these chemicals contribute to your mental and emotional health, check out last month's blog here.



5. Yoga promotes rest, relaxation and the good functioning of your digestive system


The practice of Yoga helps you relax because it slows down your body. Scientifically speaking, Yoga activates your parasympathetic nervous system (aka the "rest and relax" system), which governs the bodily functions when you're at rest, promoting relaxation and a good digestion.


The parasympathetic nervous system is also known as the brakes of the human body acting to undo the work of the sympathetic division after a stressful situation - decelerating the beating of your heart, increasing blood flow and helping release tension.


The influence Yoga has in your parasympathetic nervous system really cannot be underestimated, and makes the practice extremely beneficial if you're looking for calm and balance.

 

From helping us respond better to stress and improve our mood, to releasing "happy hormones" and activating our "rest and relax" system, Yoga supports our mental health and wellbeing holistically.


In this blog post we've highlighted only but a few of the benefits of a regular Yoga practice that are backed by science and biology, but this ancient tradition uncovers much more and helps you bring out the best there is within you. We would like to invite you to board on this journey with us.


Look after your mental health so you can live your best life.

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