Have you been thinking about getting into yoga? It’s one of the most popular forms of exercise around the globe, but it hasn’t always been that way. In the past, yoga wasn’t taken very seriously. But that mindset has changed in recent years as the medical community is beginning to acknowledge the benefits of yoga for mental and physical health.
If you’re interested in trying yoga, you probably already know it’s great for reducing stress. But did you know that it’s much more than some simple stretches? It’s actually a mind-body practice that has the ability to relieve the symptoms of many common health complaints, as well as chronic pain and illness.
Read on to learn more about the connection between yoga and mental wellbeing and how it can support the physical health of men, women, children, and senior adults.
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The Connection Between Yoga and Mental Wellbeing
Most of us have some basic familiarity with the physical practice of yoga, but it’s important to realize that it’s not just about stretching and holding poses. Yoga is an integrative practice that encompasses many aspects, including self-discipline, controlled breathing, concentration and mental focus, and rest… as well as physical postures.
Mental, emotional, and spiritual aspects are a huge part of yoga. A true yoga practice incorporates introspection, reflection, and deep consideration of the inner self. It provides a way for the practitioner to connect with their inner thoughts, emotions, and beliefs.
With that in mind, it’s easy to see how yoga and mental wellbeing are connected. Regular yoga practice can build self-confidence and make you more mindful of your lifestyle choices, in addition to relieving day-to-day stress and anxiety.
The Science of Yoga for Mental Health
The benefits of yoga for mental health have been widely studied, and the positive effects go far beyond the typical stress-relieving benefits you receive from most types of exercise. Yoga actually triggers the release of gamma-Aminobutyric acid, or GABA, which acts as a brain inhibitor.
When this chemical is released from the thalamus gland, it suppresses neural activity, working in much the same way as anti-anxiety medications. It actually leaves your brain in a calmer state, boosting your mood and reducing your stress level.
Yoga also strengthens the mind and body connection because it requires you to use them both at the same time. Unifying the body and mind can have a powerful impact on your mental health. It is especially helpful for conditions like PTSD and ADHD, as well as anxiety and depression.
At Rahav Wellness Functional Medicine in NYC, doctors often prescribe yoga as a complementary treatment for conditions related to mental health. In many cases, yoga can be used in combination with nutrition therapy and herbal medicine to relieve anxiety, stress, and depression naturally.
The Physical Benefits of Yoga
Yoga seems like a very mild way to exercise but practicing yoga regularly actually offers the same health benefits of higher impact exercise… without the stress on your joints. It can build muscle, improve physical strength and fitness, and burn calories just like cardio and strength training.
Here are some physical benefits you can look forward to with regular yoga practice.
- Improved balance and flexibility.
- Better posture.
- Reduced fatigue.
- Healthier heart rate and lower blood pressure.
- Chronic pain relief in the joints and muscles.
- Better sleep.
- Increased strength and stamina.
- More energy.
- Improved circulation.
- Weight loss and easier weight maintenance when combined with a healthy diet.
The Benefits of Yoga for Men, Women, and Children
Let’s take a look at some specific ways yoga can benefit men, women, children, and senior adults.
Yoga for Men
In addition to the mental and physical benefits outlined above, there are some specific things men can look forward to with a commitment to regular yoga practice.
- Improved flexibility, respiratory function, range of motion, and energy… all of which can boost athletic performance in other sports.
- Faster recovery after high-intensity exercise due to reduced inflammation and faster healing of the muscles, joints, and connective tissues.
- Reduced injuries during physical activity due to improved flexibility, strength, and greater body awareness.
- Improved sex life due to increased self-confidence, lower stress levels, and better physical health.
- Better muscle tone due to improved circulation and oxygenation of the muscles.
- Improved mental focus and memory due to enhanced cognitive function related to the meditative aspects of yoga.
Yoga for Women
Here are some yoga benefits that will speak to women in particular.
- Improved hormone balance and reduced symptoms during menstruation and menopause.
- Reduced worry and anxiety.
- Improved posture.
- Improved self-confidence.
- Weight loss and easier weight management.
- Improved skin health due to improved circulation and oxygenation of the blood.
Yoga for Kids
If you are a parent or have a child in your life that you care about, you’ll be excited to hear that yoga isn’t just for adults. The benefits of yoga for kids are amazing, including better focus, improved self-esteem, greater awareness, and stress relief.
Yoga has been getting a lot of attention when it comes to children recently, and for good reason. Kids are dealing with more and more stress these days, but they don’t have the life experience to teach them how to handle it or know what’s appropriate like adults do.
Not only that, but technology and on-the-go lifestyles have made sitting and talking, or even just sitting quietly and thinking for a few moments, a thing of the past. When you add peer pressure, school, and competition into the mix, kids are dealing with more stress than ever… and very few ways to cope.
With that in mind, it’s easy to see how yoga could benefit kids on a social, physical, mental, and emotional level. In particular, it can help children learn to regulate their moods and how they react to negative emotions and stress.
Yoga can have a positive impact on many areas of a child’s life, including:
- Mental wellbeing
- Emotional balance
- Reduced stress and anxiety
- Improved focus and academic performance
- Better physical health and weight maintenance
- Improved mental resilience and self-regulation.
Yoga for Senior Adults
Yoga also offers numerous benefits for senior adults too. It offers the same mental and physical benefits, and the poses can be modified according to the practitioner’s fitness level while still providing an invigorating experience.
Seniors who engage in a gentle yoga practice can enjoy multiple benefits, including:
- Improved respiration
- Lower blood pressure
- Enhanced balance and flexibility
- Improved cardiovascular function
- Increased muscle strength and stamina
- Improved range of motion in the muscles and joints
- Reduced depression and anxiety
- Better cognitive function and memory
Wrapping Things Up: Yoga is Good for Everybody
Anyone who commits to regular yoga practice is making an investment in their own mental and physical wellbeing. That’s always a good thing! Not only does yoga offer numerous mental and physical benefits that will have a positive impact on your quality of life, but it can also help you focus and be more productive at work or school, too.
Keep in mind that you may experience some of these benefits if you only practice yoga once in a while. But if you want to maximize the benefits and maintain them over time, you’ll need to practice at least a few times a week.