Yoga is often practiced for the flexibility of the body, but it also has undeniable mental benefits. The combination of movements and mental training, in particular, quickly produces wellness effects on daily life.
Yoga is especially effective against stress, but we will have the opportunity to discover other benefits in this article. This ancient science of movement, postures, and breath is a holistic system with a global effect on the body as well as on the mind.
1 – Yoga Against The Agitation Of Modern Life.
Stress, fast-paced life, and constant background noise mean that few people today are able to recharge their batteries and relax. Many people seem to be continually exhausted. Even in bed at night, thoughts often do not calm down. Deep sleep is missing.
Yoga offers a natural and beneficial alternative to antidepressants and sleeping pills. But how? What are its mental benefits?
- First of all, by restoring a balanced rhythm between action and rest. This is the very principle of a yoga session, which always ends with a posture inviting calm, like the famous Savasana posture.
- Then by offering you a parenthesis of calm to recharge your batteries: during the yoga session, there is no question of answering the phone or worrying about everything that remains to be done at work.
- Many practitioners report a deep relaxation of the body, which helps them fall asleep once they get home. Others report a feeling of energy and freshness as if they had slept through the night, even though their yoga session lasted only 30 minutes.
2 – Yoga Against Stress: Mental Benefits.
One of the main mental benefits of yoga is to fight against stress. How does it work?
Yoga Promotes The Production Of BABA.
We now know that during regular yoga and pranayama practice, the brain releases the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). GABA reduces the excitability of nerve cells in the brain and, along with muscle relaxation, reduces feelings of fear and panic.
At the same time, the release of stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline is reduced. In other words, yoga has a similar effect on the brain as tranquilizers. It helps the body produce its own natural tranquilizer. Isn’t that fantastic? And all this without any side effects or addiction!
Benefits Of Yoga On The Parasympathetic System.
Yoga also stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, the part of the autonomic nervous system responsible for calming, slowing down, and digestion. It also regulates the sympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for arousal and therefore stress or anxiety.
Yoga is a fundamentally balancing activity. In people who are mentally agitated, who suffer from fears or panic attacks, the two systems, parasympathetic and sympathetic, are out of balance. Yoga helps to restore the natural balance between these two fundamental functions.
Learn more about the parasympathetic system.
3 – The Mental Benefits Of Yoga Against Depression.
Often related to stress, but also to the constant demands of modern life, depression can also stem from traumatic events, such as loss or bereavement. Sometimes, this mental state refers to a state of inner exhaustion.
In Europe, more than 20% of women and 10% of men suffer from depression in their lifetime. We have all experienced a melancholic mood at some point, but it becomes an illness when daily life is significantly impaired.
Rather than resorting to antidepressants, you could try the mental benefits of yoga for depression.
Yoga’s Effects Scientifically Proven Against Depression.
Nina Vollbehr of the Center for Integrative Psychiatry in the Netherlands and her colleagues tested the mental benefits of yoga on depression in a study involving 74 students with mild depression. Half of them did relaxation exercises for 15 minutes a day, the other half did yoga.
After two months, the result was clear: in the yoga group, depression, anxiety, and stress had decreased significantly more than in the comparison group with relaxation exercises. The experiment was repeated with a group of 12 employees, with similar results. Their symptoms also improved.
A pilot study in Boston of 29 depressed patients showed similar results and the importance of regular practice: “The more participants attended yoga classes, the lower their depressive symptoms were at the end of the study period,” reports Maren Nyer of Massachusetts General Hospital.
In addition, the researchers found other positive effects on the participants’ quality of life, optimism, and cognitive and physical performance.
5 Asanas For Yoga Against Depression.
These five asanas, or yoga positions, can help you think more clearly and become more motivated. The asanas stimulate the central nervous system, promote blood flow to the brain and stimulate all internal processes.
1 – Vrikshasana.
Vrikshasana or the tree is the ideal exercise to regain balance. You balance on one leg to achieve stability. In this asana, it is mainly the left and right hemispheres of the brain that are balanced. You can start with a few seconds, then increase the duration.
2 – Chakrasana.
Chakrasana is also called the wheel. This exercise stimulates the spine and balances the nervous system. All the nerves along the spine are relaxed and can work better. Ideally, you should hold this asana for at least 20 seconds.
3 – Shirshasana.
Shirhsasana or headstand is an inversion position that stimulates blood flow. The brain is better supplied with oxygen and you feel more active. Your shoulders and neck are also strengthened. At first, you should practice against a wall to be able to hold the position.
4 – Surya Namaskar.
The sun salutation is probably the most famous exercise sequence and consists of 12 dynamic asanas. Surya Namaskar is the optimal energy booster. This series of poses minimizes negative thought patterns. After about six rounds, you will feel much lighter.
5 – Balasana.
Balasana is also called the child (or child’s pose). This asana helps to release tension in the chest, back and shoulders. The pose relieves stress and anxiety, as well as depression. Balasana is perfect for relaxation and regeneration.
These exercises and many others help to find inner calm and eliminate negative thoughts, so numerous in depression.
It will be understood: yoga helps us to fight against dark thoughts, fears, and agitation. But it also has other advantages.
4 – Yoga Harmonizes The Relationship Between Body And Mind.
In western civilization, we are not very concerned about our bodies, as long as they are functioning and not hurting us. If we are in pain, we rush to the doctor who will prescribe us an anti-pain medication.
There is nothing like this in the Eastern tradition from which yoga originated. The asanas that made up yoga have been designed to harmonize our relationship with the body and allow us to better feel its needs and messages.
During the practice of asanas or breath exercises, the principle of yoga is to be attentive to what you feel in your body. In some traditions, such as Hatha Yoga, the form most practiced in the West, you pause between asanas to observe the effects of the movement or posture on the body.
In other words, yoga is an excellent method to tame your body and better understand it. This closeness to our physical reality is one of the conditions of our daily well-being.
Let’s come back to the question of fears and stress: with yoga, you will be able to spot the physical signs of discomfort more easily. You will therefore treat them more quickly and avoid letting them get worse.
Your day at work has left you exhausted? Is your relationship with your colleagues strained? Many people don’t even realize it! With yoga, you’ll be able to spot the signs of blockage in your body before they manifest themselves as pressure or exasperation.
You’ll know that a yoga session is in order!
5 – Yoga Gives You Energy And Joy Of Life.
We saw above how yoga can boost GABA production. But its asanas also help to give you energy. Just like Qi Gong in China, or meditation, yoga is above all a work on our energies, to rebalance and stimulate them.
In Eastern traditions, energy circulates in a network in our body, along paths called meridians. These pathways meet and form energy nodes, the chakras. The energy is meant to circulate, which is a guarantee of good physical and mental health. However, sometimes the energy can become blocked.
You then feel depressed, but also tired and without energy. If you can dissolve the blockage, the energy can flow freely again and you will feel refreshed. The asanas have been specially designed to work on the energy knots in the body.
6 – Chakra Yoga For The Mind.
1 – Muladhara Chakra: The Root Chakra.
Properties: The root chakra represents vitality, connection with the earth (firmness), and self-confidence. When it is blocked, fears, mistrust, lack of confidence, and dynamism appear.
Conversely, when you activate it through yoga, you feel strong vital energy, confidence in yourself.
Asanas: anything that touches the feet, knees, legs, pelvis, and sacral area. Standing postures and forward bending. Example: Paschimottanasana.
2 – Svadisthana Chakra: The Sacral Chakra.
Properties: The sacral chakra concerns creativity, relationships, reproduction, deep joy, pleasure – just let go and let life happen.
Its blockage leads to rigidity, loneliness, sadness. When you activate it with yoga, you are more outgoing, more joyful, more creative.
Asanas: all asanas that have an effect on the pelvic space and the lower spine. Example: The Dove.
3 – Manipura Chakra: The Solar Plexus Chakra.
Properties: The solar plexus chakra is the seat of our personality. It is from this chakra that feelings and needs generate conscious actions and changes. The third chakra is considered the body’s energy reserve and is fed by the fire of the solar plexus.
A blockage manifests itself on the one hand as feelings of inferiority and powerlessness, on the other hand as aggression, fits of anger.
When it is activated, you feel willpower, your nerves are strong, you are centered. An inner feeling of happiness develops as well as the desire to explore your power.
Asanas: rotational exercises and postures that work the abdominal organs. Example: the swivel seat – Ardha Matsyendrasana.
4 – Anahata Chakra: The Heart Chakra.
Properties: This is the center of love. Dedication, selflessness, compassion, tolerance, and healing are just some of the qualities attributed. The heart chakra also helps to perceive the beauty of nature and art.
Asanas: back bending and exercises for the cardiovascular system. Example: Sun salutation or cobra – Bhujangasana.
5 – Vishuddha Chakra: The Throat Chakra.
Properties: The Vishuddha Chakra is our communication center and is considered the seat of truth. It expresses our thoughts and feelings, helps us perceive the inner voice, and is the gateway to higher levels of consciousness.
Asanas: Leaning back and reversing postures. Example: Sarvangasana.
6 – Ajna Chakra, The Third Eye.
Properties: The third eye is considered the place of intuition and is the seat of the mind and soul. It is said that this chakra helps develop the power of visualization and extrasensory perception, intuition, insight. It is the place of development of the internal senses, of mental power.
Asanas: visual exercises and meditation on the third eye.
7 – Sahasrara Chakra: The Coronal Chakra.
Properties: The coronal chakra is the door to the universe and opens to spiritual knowledge: trust, spirituality, freedom, perfection, and humility in front of the universe greater than us.
Asanas: exercises on the breath and the voice
In this article, we have dedicated ourselves to the mental benefits of yoga. This ancestral practice based on the rebalancing of energies helps to fight against dark thoughts, stress, and mental fatigue. You are more creative, more joyful, more tonic.
What did you think of this article and the list of benefits of yoga for the mind? Feel free to share your thoughts with us by reacting below. You can also tell us your experiences or share your tips and tricks.