September is National Yoga Month. Did you know that yoga is over 5,000 years old? Yoga was developed in Ancient India to rejuvenate and prolong life. It did not become popular in the west until the late 19th century. Over the last century and a half, yoga has grown significantly in popularity. It is glorified in the media by models, fitness influencers, and mental health specialists—and it’s a media phenomenon that deserves the praise. Yoga can work wonders for both your physical and mental health. Some media portrays yoga as a low exertion means to relax. While yoga does help many people relax, it encompasses a wide range of difficulty levels and can be quite strenuous if that’s the type of workout you are looking for.
Among others, the physical benefits of yoga include:
- Increased flexibility
- Increased muscle strength and tone
- Improved respiration and energy
- More balanced metabolism
- Weight reduction
- Improved cardio and circulatory health
- Improved athletic performance
- Protection from injury
- Pain management
An often-overlooked benefit of yoga is better sleep. Yoga relaxes you and helps you exert extra energy so that you can fall asleep easier at night. Sleep is one of the most vital factors to your overall health.
Yoga is an excellent way to improve your mental health. Mental benefits of yoga include:
- Stress relief
- Clarity and calmness
- Increased body awareness
- Improved attention
- Sharpened concentration
- Production of mood-boosting brain chemicals such as dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine.
- Relief from depression
One yoga enthusiast shares her mental health journey at theyogatransformative.com:
“I think I was about 23 years old when I discovered yoga, and if you met me back then you’ll know I was unrecognizable compared to now,” she explains. “My diagnosis (bipolar disorder) was my identity, and I held on to it like a noose.”
“I didn’t want to discover yoga,” she admits. “I think I may have been the most reluctant yoga beginner of all time. I was comfortably uncomfortable in the pain and misery I was in, and the thought of being any other way was honestly unthinkable.”
“I could barely touch my knees, let alone my toes, but something profound shifted mentally and spiritually for me. Reconnecting to my body and my breath made me realize I was more than my mental illness. I felt hope for the first time in years.”
“Yoga transformed my relationship with myself in so many ways. I learned how I can shift my energetic and mental state simply by flowing with my breath. Balancing on my hands showed me I was stronger than the limiting beliefs I used to live by. Being present in deep stretches taught me to be calm with sensation and discomfort.”
“Seven years after I reluctantly first stepped onto my yoga mat, I was told that bipolar disorder must have been a misdiagnosis—that I had been stable and episode free for so long that I couldn’t possibly have such a severe mental illness. My doctor was adamant it was my devotion to my recovery and my self-care that changed everything.”
The effects of mental health on yoga are different for everyone. It may not be as life-changing for you as it was for the woman in the story, but chances are it will benefit you, and there is no harm in trying.
Happy Yoga Month! Check out the popular yoga instructional videos linked below: