Although many people think of yoga as an exercise that burns calories and strengthens muscles, it’s actually much more than that. Yoga doesn’t just work the body—it works the mind as well. Here are some of the many psychological benefits of yoga:
Reduces Panic and Anxiety
Yogis will be taught to meditate, control their breathing, and focus on the present. Together, these three aspects of yoga can induce the relaxation response in your body, which is the opposite of the fight or flight response. Whereas the fight or flight response activates when your mind senses danger, the relaxation response kicks in when your mind believes the coast is clear.
As you practice yoga, you may feel a sense of calm wash over your mind and body. The worries and irrational fears that typically race through your head will begin to slow down and may eventually vanish completely. For this reason, people who experience anxiety or panic attacks can greatly benefit from yoga.
Sense of Self
Challenging yourself to try new poses or hold onto a difficult pose for just a few more seconds will help you develop a more positive relationship with your body. Over time, you will stop pointing out flaws and imperfections, and instead learn to appreciate what your body is capable of doing. Developing this nonjudgmental relationship with yourself will boost your confidence and make you feel more comfortable in your own skin.
Mental health professionals often advise patients with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to try yoga. Patients who have this condition may experience distressing nightmares or flashbacks and suffer from severe anxiety and depression. Symptoms may be so severe that they significantly impact the patient’s quality of life. Fortunately, a number of studies have shown that yoga can help those who suffer from PTSD.
During yoga, patients with PTSD learn how to calm themselves down when symptoms begin to flare up. They are also taught self-acceptance, which greatly benefits victims who are still blaming themselves for the tragedy that affected their lives.
Yogis have no time to think about anything besides what their bodies are doing on the mat. If they lose focus, they risk falling out of the pose that they have worked so hard to master. Yogis are also required to control their breathing by focusing solely on every inhale and exhale. Because so much of yoga involves focus, it is incredibly beneficial to people who are having trouble concentrating.
Are you ready to start practicing yoga? If you’re nervous about getting on the mat for the first time, try to show up to class a little early so you can have some one-on-one time with the instructor. Introduce yourself and let him know about any injuries or health conditions that you may have. If you’re not familiar with the equipment, such as blocks and straps, ask him for a quick tutorial before class begins.
Be sure that you wear appropriate yoga clothing so you don’t accidentally reveal too much while twisting into different positions. Then, step onto your mat and start to experience the many psychological benefits of yoga!