These Yoga Poses Can Benefit Your Mental Health

Yoga and mental health: Yoga can calm your mind. On a physical level, you may find that your sleep pattern improves, appetite improves, the digestion system resets, and the menstrual cycle becomes regulated.


Yoga can help you gain clarity of mind

STRONG POINTS

  1. Practicing yoga regularly helps to discipline oneself
  2. Yoga helps us understand our breathing
  3. Breathing is the basis of most yoga practices

Yoga and mental health: There is a deep and direct connection between yoga and mental health. One of the main factors affecting mental health is stress. Never has it been more necessary to pay attention to our mental health than now. With the uncertainty of the pandemic and the lack of human contact, the amount of stress seems to be increasing day by day. The state of our mind may not be reflected in our physical behavior and may be ignored. In most cases, we are unable to comprehend what we feel mentally and emotionally and therefore we do not recognize any disturbance. This can lead to lack of self-confidence, insomnia, anxiety, depression, eating disorders, etc. However, if gravity is detected by a person or his relatives, it can certainly be solved by practicing yoga.

Practicing yoga regularly helps to discipline oneself and, over time, to discipline one’s thoughts. But most importantly, yoga helps us understand our breathing. In the Yoga Sutras, breath is defined as Prana or life force and energy. Breathing is the basis of most yoga practices. In asanas, the slower you breathe, the more comfortable you are in the pose; in Pranayama, the techniques consist of the act of breathing itself. Breathing slowly helps calm the mind, which is directly related to reducing stress.

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Often, by hearsay, we rush to learn pranayama techniques with the aim of altering our respiratory or mental state. However, in my experience, you have to start with gentle breathing methods such as abdominal breathing or the practice of yoga nidra. These are more effective in calming our nervous system and mind, and also help in moving smoothly into more advanced techniques and meditation. Pranayama techniques help improve breathing pattern and increase lung capacity. Once the breathing pattern is corrected, it stimulates a calm state of mind. It helps to release physical, mental and emotional blockages.

The saying, “when you get angry, take five deep breaths” is absolutely valid. Once you take these five deep breaths, you feel calm and your reaction calms down.

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Yoga can help you have a calm state of mind

Photo credit: iStock

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Meditative poses like sukhasana, padmasana, and vajrasana help bring mindfulness to our breath. The vrikshasana, garudasana, utkatasana, utthita hasta padangusthasana, natrajasana, virabhadrasana series all help increase concentration and create a sense of stability and balance. These asanas help to develop the functions of the cerebellum or brain center which controls the functioning of the body in motion. Heart openers or backbends like chakrasana, bhujangasana, ushtrasana, matsyasana and ardha chandrasana help in chest expansion, improve inhaling and increase confidence levels. Forward bends like janusirshasana, paschimottanasana and parsvottanasana help with chest compression and exhalation. They are associated with the removal of rigidity at the mental and physical level. Spinal twists like ardh matsyendrasana, maricyasana, and parivrtta janu sirsasana help with abdominal functions and release knots in the system. Reverse asanas increase blood flow to our brain and are physically, mentally and emotionally rejuvenating. These include sirsasana, sarvangasana, halasana and their variations. A good practice is to combine balancing poses, forward bends, back bends, twists and inversions. Focus on the breath through simple meditative postures or pranayama techniques; this leads to a sense of balance on and off the mat.

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Once your mind is calm, you witness many changes. On a physical level, you may find that your sleep pattern improves, appetite improves, the digestion system resets, and the menstrual cycle becomes regulated. Internally, you tend to have more clarity in your mind, your confidence levels increase, and you are able to deal with pent up emotions. You improve communication with others and are able to control your reaction to situations.

*Reference: Asana Pranayama Mudra Bandha by Swami Satyananda Saraswati

*As a beginner, please practice under the guidance of a teacher to understand the importance of alignment.

(Juhie is certified by Yoga Institute Mumbai (200 hours) and Indea Yoga Mysore (500 hours) as a Hatha Yoga instructor.)

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