National Yoga Awareness Month: Treating mental illness with yoga

National Yoga Awareness Month: Treating mental illness with yoga

The term “health” brings to mind the necessity of maintaining good physical and mental well-being. However, while physical health usually gets proper attention, mental health issues often take a backseat.

Many factors are responsible for weak psychological conditions, such as anxiety, unchecked addictive habits, lack of sexual identity, eating disorders, etc. But the most common reason is stress. Various reasons may lead to stress and consequent depression and to counter these problems, psychologists are now suggesting yoga to such patients. 

To spread knowledge about the importance of yoga, the month of September is observed as the National Yoga Awareness Month. Yoga was originally practiced as a spiritual discipline with the ultimate goal to achieve an ideal state of psychophysiological health; its postures and exercises ensuring physical health, while its breathing techniques augmenting mindful awareness via meditation. Though the medical literature available today does not discuss yoga in detail, people who practice yoga have suggested that the techniques involved can help reduce the effect and level of anxiety and depression.

Psychological benefits of yoga

The list of benefits of yoga mentions it physiological advantages, including increased flexibility and reduction of muscle stiffness. However, it does not talk about its psychological impact. Though further studies are needed regarding the effects of yoga on mental health, the most discussed mental health benefits of practicing yoga are:

  • Improving psychological health: Some people are more prone to anxiety than others. The breathing techniques in yoga help calm down both the body and mind, thus, relieving a person of the constant worries. Regular practice of yoga helps attain a perfect state of calmness, necessary for mental well-being.
  • Taming anxiety and depression: Yoga involves relaxation, meditation and exercise that help reduce levels of anxiety and depression. Doctors propose that practicing yoga helps in improving the person’s response to stress and thus, is an inexpensive way of alleviating depression levels.
  • Improving concentration levels: At times, concentration levels dip while performing daily routine tasks. Yoga improves concentration level and helps calm senses necessary to retain memory, thus, enhancing performance levels.
  • Preventing onset of psychological disasters among teens: Myriad psychiatric disorders can develop at the onset of adolescence. As teenagers are susceptible to mental health disorders, it becomes necessary to look for ways and methods to check further deterioration in their mental health conditions. It has been observed that people who practice various postures of yoga, along with various breathing and relaxation techniques, are likely to manifest lower anxiety levels.
  • Potential treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD): People who had suffered trauma during early stages of life due to war, combat, sexual assault or bullying find it difficult to function normally in their daily activities. Such people are diagnosed with PTSD and they tend to get dependent on one or more addictive substances or are prescribed antidepressants to fight off anxiety and depression. Various positions in yoga, such as breathing techniques or guided meditation, can help alleviate the severity of depression.

Patients of PTSD also complain of experiencing nightmares or flashbacks of past episodes or encounters. Yoga is recommended for those who remain immune to the various pharmacological treatments and in cases where all other methods of treatment have failed. A study by the American Psychological Association (APA) on military service personnel afflicted with PTSD said that yoga proved helpful in diminishing the signs of the disorder.

  • Reducing risk of mild cognitive impairment in adults: Derailment of cognitive ability, though mild in the beginning, can trigger Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. Authors of the study, titled “Effects of Meditation versus Music Listening on Perceived Stress, Mood, Sleep, and Quality of Life in Adults with Early Memory Loss: A Pilot Randomized Controlled Trial,” have emphasized on the benefits of yoga in ameliorating anxiety levels and in developing coping skills.

Recovery path

Though yoga has been mostly recommended for weight loss or for treatment of depression, its benefits on cognitive health are many. While a combination of medications and therapies is suggested to treat mental health disorders, yoga helps those who fail to benefit from antidepressants.

If you or your loved one is suffering from any mental illness, contact the Sovereign Mental Health Services to know about our various mental health treatment facilities in the U.S. Call at our 24/7 helpline number 866-954-0529 or chat online for information about our anxiety disorders treatment centers in California.

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