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Yoga and Your Mental Health

Stress is everywhere. Whether you are at work, whether your boss wants the report by tomorrow, whether your partner wants to know what is for dinner, or whether your child is crying- stress is there and if you are constantly under stress your mind and body will pay the price. Doing exercise or finding the best technique to help you to unwind is key to promoting good mental and physical health. I found that yoga was one of the best ways to unwind and reduce my stress. In addition to walking, reading, and doing mild exercises, yoga is something that has helped me to find serenity and to achieve peace in my body and mind. I like yoga because you can do in the comfort of your own home. I especially like Hatha yoga because it is a slower pace style yoga and the movements are easier. Of course, there are many styles of yoga, each having certain forms and intensities. It is your personal preference which style is the right one for you.

Yoga is a practice that combines mind, body, stretching, controlled breathing and relaxation. It consists of postures which can increase your flexibility and controlled breathing which can help control your body and relax your mind. I suggest yoga to client’s who are stressed or have anxiety. “Practicing yoga can not only be an effective stress reliever, but also a way to ease symptoms of anxiety and depression. By transferring focus and attention to the body and breath, yoga can help to temper anxiety while also releasing physical tension” (Gregoire, 2013). I believe that by practicing yoga, you simply focus on the way you are breathing and on the present. People who have anxiety do not focus on the present, but instead on the past or future. Yoga is a good way to clear your mind and focus on “where you are now” and “what you are doing now” as opposed to “what am I going to do tomorrow” or “what will happen next week.”

Yoga has many health benefits: it can reduce blood pressure, improve heart rate, reduce sleep problems, reduce mild depression or anxiety. According to Dr. P. Murali Doraiswamy, a professor of psychiatry and medicine at Duke University Medical Center, “individually, people feel better after doing the physical exercise. Mentally, people feel calmer, sharper, maybe more content”  (Sifferlin, 2013). Researchers from Duke University Medical Center write in their study, published in the journal Frontiers in Psychiatry “that yoga does in fact have positive effects on mild depression and sleep problems” (Sifferlin, 2013).Yoga helps to regulate a person’s stress response system and provides with ways to cope and resolve anxiety and depression. “Sleep issues are like anxiety. Your head can’t stop spinning, you don’t know how to relax. Breathing and mental exercises allow the mind to slow down, so you’re going to start to see yourself sleep better” says Bleier, a researcher from Harvard (Domonell, 2013). Of course, if you are taking medications, you should not replace it with yoga. Adding yoga to existing treatments can help lower your symptoms and you can take advantage of its benefits:

1) Improve your mental well being: Like mentioned above, yoga focuses on your breathing and body. This makes it a great way to focus on the present, to be more aware of your inner self, to achieve balance, to clear your mind and not focus on your worries or anxieties.

2) Help with depression and anxiety. Yoga can help regulate the stress response system, lower blood pressure and heart rate. Studies mentioned above and other literature have shown that yoga can help reduce depression and anxiety.

3) Improve memory and concentration. Dharana, the practice of concentration, clears your mind. As you focus your mind, you are better able to remember things and concentrate better.

4) Reduce effects of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).“Hatha Yoga has been shown to be effective in reducing PTSD symptoms” according to the American Psychological Association. A 2012 study published in the American Journal of Occupational Therapy found that hatha yoga reduced the symptoms of PTSD. Researchers administered nine yoga sessions to 35 U.S air forces and military personnel for three weeks and it was compared to a control group of 35 personnel who did not receive any yoga therapy. The yoga group had greater improvement in mental health such as improved sleep, feeling calm, reduced anger and improved quality of life than the control group (Gavalas, 2012).

Give yoga a try and see if you like it. Of course, if you are experiencing medical issues, you should consult with your doctor to see if yoga is right for you.  Yoga may not be for everyone. Find what is a positive relaxation technique for you and practice it.  Yoga is a good way for me to get in tune with my inner self, to achieve balance, and to feel more relaxed with my thoughts. What are your thoughts on yoga?



Yoga For Anxiety: 10 Poses To Reduce Stress And Support Mental Health (PHOTOS)
The Huffington Post | By Carolyn Gregoire
Yoga and the Mind: Can Yoga Reduce Symptoms of Major Psychiatric Disorders?
By Alexandra Sifferlin
Yoga Stress Relief for Soldiers, 2012, Huffpost Healthy Living by Elaine Gavalas
5 Surprising Health Benefits of Yoga Fitness by Kristen Domonell on 12/16/2013
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Yoga and Your Mental Health

Helen Nieves

Helen Nieves is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and Certified Attention Deficit Consultant Specialist. She teaches ADHD on line and is on the Advisory Board at The American Institute of Health Care Professionals. She also received advanced training in Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy and in Grief Counseling.

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APA Reference
Nieves, H. (2015). Yoga and Your Mental Health. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 1, 2020, from


Last updated: 16 Apr 2015
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