Yoga and Mental Health
What is Mental Health?
Good mental health can be defined as a balanced, healthy approach to life that is reflected by ones attitude. Physiological, psychological, environmental and genetic factors have a profound effect on the development of ones mental health, and repressed traumas, chronic stress, physical illness, childhood and hereditary issues may all cause poor mental health.
Poor mental health may cause mental illnesses such as:
- Anxiety disorders
- Bipolar disorder
- Eating Disorders
- Personality Disorders
- Organic Brain Disorders/ Brain injury
The Role of Yoga in Mental Health
Whilst there are many different forms of yoga, they are all renown for their Asanas (poses) and breathing techniques.
Asanas massage important organs deep inside the body, which leads to its overall improved function. They have a direct, beneficial affect on ones mental health, and do so by creating:
A healthy nervous system
Certain Asanas improve overall vitality levels (essential to good mental health) by stretching and realigning the spine that via nerves extend to the organs and glands of the body. Certain poses such as the headstand, may stimulate neurons (brain nerve cells) and improve overall cognitive function and memory capability.
A healthy endocrine system and healthy glands
The endocrine system mediates the body-mind relationship. It is responsible for the production of certain hormones (such as Cortisol, the ‘stress hormone’), which made in excess may be directly linked to conditions such as depression and Anxiety.
Through the Asanas and breathing techniques, yoga is able to regulate the glands of the endocrine system through:
- The headstand, which may stimulate healthy hormone secretion by the Pituitary gland responsible for the regulation of all other endocrine glands.
- The Shoulderstand, which may help regulate the thyroid and parathyroid glands that are both responsible for basal metabolic rate, growth and other cellular processes.
- The Peacock, which may regulate the Pancreatic and Adrenal glands, helping to stabilize blood glucose levels and reducing overall feelings of stress.
- Other Asanas that may also help balance female and male sex hormones, relieving PMS in women and sexual tension in men.
- Healthy internal organs
Science is slowing presenting with more and more evidence that the mind and body function as a single system. Anyone who exercises regularly would recognise this and feels the mental and emotional benefits physical exercise can have to ones mental health.
Most Asanas will also massage and stimulate organs outside of the brain, spine and glands. For example, the heart is massaged by the stomach lift which results in better circulation, a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and
Whist Yoga offers an overall improvement on mental health, it should never be relied upon as the sole remedy particularly for people with serious mental illness. As yoga can only support the recovery and symptoms for these disorders, it is not a cure. If you have a mental illness, please consult your local medical practitioner who will be able to advise you on the proper psychological therapy and medication that the practice of yoga may support.
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Related Modalities Yoga - All Yoga - Ashtanga Yoga - Bikram Yoga - Hatha Yoga - Iyengar Yoga - Kundalini Yoga - Pregnancy Yoga - Satyananda Yoga - Vinyasa