The Benefits of Yoga: Mental Health
As yoga has become a more popular practice in the western hemisphere throughout the last half-century, scientists have started to research the correlation between yoga and health. Now, researchers are confirming what dedicated yogis have known for years: yoga is extremely beneficial.
Research on Yoga and Mental Health
Yoga, in Sanskrit, means “to yoke” or “to bring together,” and it is a practice that truly merges body and mind. This body-mind connection in itself is a first step to improved mental health.
Current research has focused on this connection and the explicit benefits of yoga for cognitive and emotional health. Indeed, an article published in Psychology Today states that psychotherapy has increasingly used yoga to improve depression, attention deficit and hyperactivity, and sleep disorders. This is because yoga literally changes neural pathways to promote relaxation.
Instead of covering the science, we want to focus today on how yoga can help to alleviate one tendency that nearly all humans exhibit: overthinking. Or, more specifically, negative thought processes. Whether we know it or not, we beat ourselves down repeatedly with our self-talk. Joining a yoga studio can encourage us to replace these distortions with more mindful, realistic thinking. This benefit of yoga isn’t just in our heads; yoga calms down our parasympathetic nervous system and releases endorphins, so it becomes easier for us to tackle cognitive distortions like the ones below.
1. Polarized thinking: “Black or white” thinking:
When we exhibit this cognitive distortion, we tend to see the world in extremes: you either succeed or fail without any middle ground. Yoga totally disrupts this process because it forces us to not just see the middle ground, but also to enjoy it.
At our yoga studio in downtown Dallas, our classes often theme around this idea of letting go of perfection and binaries. In yoga, there is no success. When we see someone move from a handstand to a beautiful chaturanga push-up and we remain in child’s pose, though, we certainly need to be mindful of assuming they have “succeeded” while we have failed. By encouraging us to focus on our journey and by seeing yoga as a lifelong practice (that can never be mastered), yoga helps to break down this negative thinking.
2. The “Shoulds”
I should have gone to that 7 a.m. class. I should have studied English instead of Economics. I should eat healthier….we “should” all day long, and this adds a lot of undue pressure to our lives. Yoga eases this pressure that we “should” do something, as the practice is all about listening to our bodies. The only thing you should do is back off of a posture if you feel pain. Other than that, yoga is about learning to be comfortable with exactly where you are at that moment. Again, unless it involves safety or proper alignment, you will never be told that you should do something. After awhile, you’ll stop telling yourself that you should do things as well, both on and off the mat.
3. Dwelling on the Negative
When you try out a yoga studio as a beginner, this cognitive distortion might be front and center. You think about the balancing posture where you fell over rather than focusing on the experience as a whole without judgement. We think about the one piece of negative feedback we got at work rather than recognizing that 99 percent of it was positive.
Yoga studios in general are incredibly positive spaces of support and community. Just surrounding yourself in an atmosphere like this can be enough to refocus your brain on the positive. Additionally, when you develop a dedicated yoga practice, you focus on breath and learn to calm your nervous system. This physical benefit translates to better, more positive mental health.
Yoga Pod Dallas
At our yoga studio in downtown Dallas, we cannot wait to support you as you develop and strengthen your yoga practice. Our yoga studio prides itself on creating a welcoming and nurturing space where you can get your fitness in and practice self care. Check out our weekly schedule of more than 50 classes.
We’re conveniently located in the heart of Victory Park, and we are a community of yoga students from all levels. Try $30 For 30 days and see what Yoga Pod Dallas is all about.