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Yoga: How Yoga Can Improve Your Mental Health

Exercise, particularly yoga, can be an invaluable tool for improving your mental health. Keep reading to find out what yoga can do for you.

What Is Yoga?

Yoga is defined as a practice that encompasses both the body and mind, as it utilizes movement, meditation, and breathing techniques. Yoga is a form of exercise. Some of the benefits of yoga include:

  • Increased flexibility
  • Better heart health
  • Improved muscle strength
  • Reduced stress and anxiety
  • Improved mood
  • Improved strength and endurance
  • Relaxation
  • A sense of well-being
  • Better sleep
  • Effectiveness as part of an addiction treatment program

There are six different branches of yoga, all with different traits, purposes, and focuses. They include:

  • Hatha yoga – This branch is primarily physical and mental and aims to unite the body and mind. 
  • Karma yoga – This branch of yoga seeks to promote positivity and selflessness.
  • Bhakti yoga – This branch of yoga is a positive way to channel your emotions and cultivate tolerance and acceptance. 
  • Raja yoga – This branch strictly adheres to a concept known as the eight limbs of yoga and involves a lot of meditation. 
  • Jnana yoga – This branch focuses on study, scholarship, wisdom, and intellect. 
  • Tantra yoga – This branch is all about ritual, the consummation of a relationship, and ceremony. 

The primary goal of yoga is to unite the body, mind, and spirit. Modern yoga focuses on building physical strength, deep and controlled breathing, and increasing agility. In addition to the different branches of yoga available to practice, there are different types of yoga as well. They include: 

  • Restorative yoga
  • Prenatal yoga
  • Viniyoga
  • Yin yoga
  • Kripalu yoga
  • Power yoga
  • Sivananda yoga
  • Kundalini yoga
  • Hatha yoga
  • Bikram yoga
  • Iyengar yoga
  • Ashtanga yoga

You should choose the type of yoga you would like to practice based on your interests, fitness level, goals, and abilities. 

The History of Yoga

Although yoga is seeing a recent increase in popularity in the United States, it is not a new practice. In fact, yoga is ancient. The first mention of yoga dates back to northern India in a collection of ancient texts known as Rig Veda, and it originally came from the word “yuj,” which is a Sanskrit word meaning “to join” or “union.”

Yoga was first introduced into western culture by Indian monks in the 1890s and became more widely used and practiced in the west by the 1970s. 

Yoga and Mental Health 

As with most exercise, yoga releases dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine in the brain. These chemicals are known as feel-good chemicals and can provide a noticeable mood boost. 

Yoga can be an effective way to reduce stress. With the calming music typical in a yoga class, peaceful atmosphere, and tightening and relaxing of muscles, it is easy to see why. 

Yoga has been shown to be particularly effective against depression and can be almost as valuable in treatment as psychotherapy or medication. And because you don’t need a therapist or prescription to practice yoga, this makes yoga one of the most accessible treatment methods for depression. However, it is important to note that if you are actively using a prescribed treatment for depression, you should not adjust that plan without speaking to your doctor.

If you would like to use yoga to improve your mental health, a certified teacher is the best way to do so. A certified teacher will be able to correctly show you yoga moves, as well as correct your form and show you proper breathing techniques. This can be done either in a group or individual setting, whichever makes you more comfortable. 

If you are inexperienced and doing yoga on your own, there is the possibility that you could strain or injure yourself by performing the moves incorrectly. However, if this is a risk you are willing to take, there are many valuable yoga resources available online and in print. Be sure that you start slow, listen to your body, and never push yourself to a point where you feel pain. 

Yoga and Recovery 

Just as yoga is a great practice to incorporate into your everyday life, yoga can be a valuable tool while in addiction recovery. Here are some of the primary benefits: 

  • Yoga can improve your health – Yoga is a great way to support both your physical and mental health while in recovery. When you practice yoga, you are not only moving your body, but also finding tranquility and peace of mind. 
  • Yoga can provide a sense of community – Members of a yoga class or even just an exercise partner can function as a part of your community. Having a strong community and support system is vital to achieving success in recovery. 
  • Yoga can provide a sense of accomplishment – There are many different yoga moves, ranging in difficulty. As you begin to practice yoga and improve your skills, you may see an increase in your self-esteem and feel a sense of accomplishment. 

Exercise is a valuable tool for all, but it can be especially powerful during recovery. If you are at the beginning of your recovery process and seeking a treatment facility, make sure that you choose one that utilizes holistic practices like yoga in addition to medical means. 

Contact Ardu Recovery Center 

Yoga and exercise, in general, are great ways to improve your mental health. If it is time for you or a loved one to get professional help in the fight against addiction, consider contacting the experts at Ardu Recovery Center. At Ardu, we take a medical and holistic approach to drug and alcohol addiction treatment because we believe that wellness is equally mental and physical. We offer a wide array of detox and rehabilitation programs that include our state-of-the-art services like yoga classes, massage, and therapy so that you can work on both your mind and body, giving you a higher chance of success. Reach out to us today to schedule a tour of our beautiful rehabilitation center in Provo, Utah, and see if Ardu could be a good fit for you.