According to Statista, over 34.4 million people in the US practice yoga, approximately 10 percent of the population. In fact, there’s a good reason many people are adopting yoga as a part of their wellness routines: there are various studies that link yoga to physical and mental benefits.
Considering this relationship between yoga and our well-being, it’s increasingly becoming a component of mental health treatment plans. As more mental health practitioners recommend yoga therapy to help clients manage symptoms, it’s worth taking a look at what yoga therapy means and the specific benefits it offers.
What Is Yoga Therapy?
It’s a mind-body practice that’s based on yoga postures, meditation, and breathing exercises to enhance physical and mental well-being. Yoga therapy is a holistic method that supplements traditional mental health therapy to manage symptoms. At mental health facilities, it’s commonly added to treatment plans, such as holistic behavioral therapy by URP Behavioral Health.
What Is Mind-Body Wellness?
Mind-body wellness is the idea that your physical, mental, and spiritual health are connected to each other, so improving one area can positively change another. It’s based on the concept of mind-body connection, which is the link between your thoughts, attitudes, and behaviors and how they affect your physical health (and vice versa).
What Are The Benefits Of Yoga Therapy?
Some of the most prominent benefits of adding yoga therapy to your holistic treatment plan are as follows:
Yoga therapy has a profound impact on the brain. As you maintain specific yoga postures and practice breathing techniques, your brain releases neurotransmitters such as GABA, oxytocin, dopamine, and serotonin. Together, these chemicals balance mood, induce a sense of well-being, and help you feel better. This explains why yoga is proven to be effective at reducing feelings of depression.
As mentioned above, practicing yoga stimulates the release of GABA, an inhibitory neurotransmitter that’s crucial for anxiety regulation. By elevating the brain’s GABA levels, yoga therapy helps manage anxious thoughts and improve your mood. Research shows that people who struggle with anxiety disorders experience heightened activity in the brain’s limbic system. Yoga helps reduce activity in this part of the brain, which reduces the intensity of anxious thoughts.
Relieves Stress Levels
According to the idea of mind-body connection, relaxing the body can help relax the mind. When you feel stressed, your body responds by priming the muscles to act – leading to tension. Then, these tense muscles relay to the brain that the body is stressed, and so the cycle keeps going.
This is where yoga therapy can help by stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system. It suppresses the stress response and reduces levels of stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol. This happens thanks to the way it tackles symptoms like muscle tension. Yoga therapy relaxes the muscles and promotes flexibility, which sends a signal to the brain to stop getting stressed.
Another reason why yoga therapy is beneficial for mental health is that it increases feelings of mindfulness. This is best described as a nonjudgmental awareness of the physical and mental sensations you’re experiencing.
Mindfulness is a key trait for improving distress tolerance, which is your ability to accept distressing experiences as they come. This, in turn, improves resilience towards stressful events and prevents you from engaging in unhelpful coping strategies.
Improves Concentration and Focus
Many mental health concerns, like depression, bipolar disorder, or PTSD, can make it difficult to concentrate on and perform tasks. This is especially true when your symptoms are intense and prevent you from focusing on occupational and social functioning.
One of the reasons yoga helps with concentration and longevity is that it enhances blood flow, while inversions take blood from the lower body to the brain and heart. This enhanced circulation to the brain means that it receives more oxygen, which improves memory, boosts awareness, and increases feelings of alertness.
Helps You Get Better Sleep
Researchers have numerous possible explanations as to why yoga can improve your sleeping patterns. The first is that it stimulates the release of the GABA neurotransmitter, which inhibits brain activity and helps your body relax so you can fall asleep.
Another reason why yoga therapy improves sleep quality is that the exercises involve stretching and relaxing muscles. Such activity causes both physical and mental exertion, so it takes less time for you to fall asleep. And once you fall asleep, you experience deeper sleep with fewer sleep disturbances.
Self-esteem and body image are challenging issues for some people, particularly young adults. Recent research shows that practicing yoga can also lead to improved self-esteem and positive feelings about one’s body image. This could be linked to how yoga therapy improves self-awareness, which means knowing about your strengths, weaknesses, and why you act the way you do. When you’re self-aware, you have a more realistic assessment of your achievements, which allows you to build self-acceptance and, subsequently, self-esteem.
Helps Reduce Inflammation
A study on the effects of meditation showed that 12 weeks of yoga therapy slowed cellular aging. The results pointed to lower levels of inflammation, as well as a reduction in cortisol levels.
In other studies, practicing yoga has led to a decrease in common markers of inflammation, such as TNF- α, CRP levels, and IL-6. It’s also described as an ideal practice for curbing inflammation because it combines aspects of exercise and stress reduction techniques. Such studies show that yoga can prove beneficial for curbing the dangerous effects of chronic stress at physical and psychological levels.
To sum it up, yoga therapy is a component of the holistic approach to mental health treatment that involves postures, breathing exercises, and meditation. It’s based on the mind-body wellness technique, according to which physical, mental, and spiritual well-being are interconnected. Some of the benefits of adopting yoga therapy include improved mood, lower stress levels, anxiety relief, reduced inflammation, and better sleep quality. While yoga therapy certainly offers various benefits, it’s best when applied in combination with other evidence-based practices for the best chance at recovery.
Jessica has a flair for writing engaging blogs and articles. She enjoys reading and learning new things which enables her to write different topics and fields with ease. She also strives to break down complex concepts and make them easy for anybody to comprehend.