What is your primary reason for practicing, or considering, yoga? For many people, they’re looking for a way to get into great shape. After all, yoga is known for its ability to build strength, endurance and flexibility. It also aids in weight loss and, because there are so many styles of yoga, it’s available to almost everyone regardless of their current fitness level.
But many people don’t realize, until after they begin taking yoga classes, that the mental benefits are just as profound as the physical benefits. Let’s take a look at a few of these mental health benefits in detail:
1. Your yoga practice can teach you to live in the moment.
One of the things many people strive for is an ability to focus on "right now" and to let the past and the future fade away. It’s in the present moment that we feel most calm and joyful. Yet, with so much going on in our daily life, it can be extraordinarily difficult to live in the moment. If you’re like most people, then you have appointments and bills to remember and a schedule to keep. Living in the moment may seem impossible.
Yoga forces you to return to presence. All thoughts about the mistakes you made yesterday and the things you have to do tomorrow fade away as you try to hold a pose and focus on your breathing; it’s meditative. When you live in the moment, even for the short duration of a yoga class, you’ll feel more positive about yourself, your day and your life. This positive attitude boosts your overall mental health in a powerful way.
2. Your yoga practice can help with stress reduction.
There are many facets of yoga that also cause your overall stress levels to be reduced. The focused breathing alone has been shown to reduce cortisol (the stress hormone) levels and lower blood pressure. Additionally, when you exercise, endorphins are released. These endorphins help boost your mood and facilitate better stress management.
3. Your yoga practice can help you to achieve emotional balance.
A professor from Harvard University conducted a study that looked at 11th and 12th graders and found that teens that took a yoga class instead of a traditional physical education class reported feeling more balanced and in control of their emotions. Keep in mind that, during these developmental years, emotional balance is a large challenge for teens and they often report feeling overwhelmed, and often battle with depression and anger.
These lessons of living in the moment and approaching problems with a clear head can be embraced throughout the day, thus providing a stronger sense of control, balance and mental well-being.