Did you know that yoga can make your day better? Through more than just movement… here’s five ways yoga can improve your mental health
Often when we approach the winter months we start taking supplements such as a multi-vitamin or Echinacea to build physical immunity against colds and flu. Even though these can be helpful, what about our mental immunity? Yoga can improve your mental health more than you might think.
As a society we spend a lot of time (and money) on our physical selves. But what time or dedication do we give to our mental health? Colder darker days can sometimes take their toll on our precious minds. Using aspects of yoga we can positively impact not just the physical, but the mental, emotional and spiritual aspects of our lives.
Seva: Selfless Service
Studies show that there is a neural link between generosity and happiness. Being of service to others will actually make you feel better as well as the recipient. Try volunteering, making soup for a sick friend, helping out in community events or even something simple like buying someone a coffee. In India, Seva traditionally was believed to help one’s spiritual growth while also contributing to the betterment of the community.
Asana: Yoga Postures
Contrary to what many people believe, yoga is not exercise or just another activity such as running or cycling. The purpose of yoga is to purify the body and still the mind in order to reach a higher consciousness or enlightenment.
Every yoga posture has an affect on both the body and mind. Forward folds calm the monkey mind and relieve anxiety. Backbends energise and expand the heart space. Through a dedicated yoga practice you will build a strong, healthy, flexible body which will have a profound effect on the mind. When you combine all that with breath awareness, you have a pretty powerful recipe for health and happiness.
Prananyama: Breath Control
Mouth breathing is actually seen as a medical condition. When we breathe through our mouths, we are doing what is called shallow breathing. This causes the heart rate to increase, the pupils to dilate and an increase in cortisol. Basically, breathing through your mouth will keep you in a mild state of stress 24 hours per day. Can you imagine the effect of living in a state of unconscious stress over time? In yoga, you are taught to breathe in and out through the nose only. Taking control of the breath and also giving it your undivided attention. This is a positive focus for the mind but it’s also essential to bring the body back to its natural relaxed state. Nasal breathing taps into what is called the ‘parasympathetic nervous system’. This keeps the heartbeat slow and regular, lowers blood pressure and takes the body out of fight-or-flight.
Sankalpa: Positive Intention
A sankalpa is a positive intention or affirmation which you create either during yoga, meditation or even just first thing in the morning while the mind is still restful from sleep. It is a vow or commitment to transform your life and it’s a very powerful tool. The statement or phrase is repeated in the present tense. For example, if you would like to feel more peace in your life then your sankalpa would be “I am peaceful”. Or if you are in sad or depressed life situation than use “I am happy”. You don’t need to wait until the new year to make positive resolutions for a more joyful life.
Yoga will expand and heighten your awareness. If you are feeling tense, you will notice that your shoulders aren’t relaxed or you are holding your breath. Once you become aware of this, you can transform and relax your shoulders and breathe deeply. The mind–body connection is strong. They are not separate. With heightened awareness you will also observe how your body feels in relation to food and your diet. Does the food you eat make you feel energised or sluggish? What about becoming aware of who and where you spend your time? Does watching a violent movie make you feel depressed and anxious? A dedicated yoga practice will continue to improve this awareness thus helping you make conscious decisions. And live a more intentional positive life supporting your physical and mental health.
Julie Hyde is dedicated to inspiring others to live their healthiest and happiest lives through the power of yoga. As a mother to a little boy, she is passionate about the yoga lifestyle. Connect with Julie on Instagram @juliehydeyoga or visit www.juliehydeyoga.com