Yoga: An Essential Partner in Emotional, Psychological, and Physical Healing
The number of Americans practicing yoga has grown by over 50% in the last four years. Currently, over 36 million people, according to a study conducted by Yoga Alliance, are incorporating a yoga practice into their regular routine in some form or another. Not only does practicing yoga have many physical health benefits, including increased strength and flexibility, but it also has many mental, emotional and spiritual benefits.
As a mental health and wellness practice, meditation, mindfulness, breath-work, visualization and yoga are an essential part of the work that we do because of the strong and undeniable connection between mind and body health. Yoga and meditation provide incredibly beneficial practice tools that can help individuals to improve coping skills, manage stress and anxiety, increase focus, improve sleep habits and patterns, and develop a stronger mind/body connection. In addition, these yogic practices, when combined with clinical psychotherapy techniques and psycho-education, offer practical, approachable and effective skills that can easily integrated into everyday life for a variety of mind, body and lifestyle benefits:
Improves Brain Function
Connecting breath to movement and practicing the act recognizing, slowing down and controlling breath patterns, can help to boost focus and memory and can improve overall cognitive functioning.
Improves Frustration Tolerance
The regular practice of noticing, sitting with, accepting and letting go of strong feelings that arise during meditation and yoga practices can help individuals to accept and tolerate the powerful emotions they may feel when challenging their habits or when exposing themselves (both voluntarily and involuntary) to upsetting situations in everyday life.
Reprograms Automatic Physiological Stress Responses and Trauma Memory
Yoga (Trauma Informed Yoga Therapy, specifically), can help individuals to work through strong feelings, conscious and subconscious memories and habits and beliefs that are stored within the body and mind. Our response to stress and trauma is both physical and emotional. Yoga and meditation can be beneficial in healing trauma and in reprogramming the bodies response to triggers by tapping into the autonomic nervous system though the breath, gaze, posture and senses.
Increases Body Awareness
Yoga and meditation can help individuals to be more in tuned with their bodies. When you become more aware of your physical being, you are better able to make choices that align with who you are and what you need in that moment, including understanding your body’s responses to certain stimuli, thoughts, emotions, experiences, foods, etc. When you are more aware of what your body is telling you, you become better equipped to respond with choices address your specific needs.
Reduces Stress, Anxiety and Depression
Yoga and meditation have been found to reduce stress, anxiety and symptoms of depression in a variety of ways, including increasing brain chemicals that combat depression and anxiety-related disorders. Yogic practices and tools like breath-work, meditation and gentle movement techniques, can help to modulate stress response systems (psychological, biochemical, and physical cycles), which decreases physiological arousal (reducing the heart rate, lowering blood pressure, and easing respiration) and can help to decrease symptoms that are associated with depression, like feelings of apathy and dissociation (disconnection from body, thoughts and experiences).
Yoga and meditation can help to clear and settle your mind while also providing you with skills to naturally and intentionally bring your body and mind to the restful and relaxed state that is necessary for good quality sleep. In addition, when body temperature is raised in the early evening though a light yoga practice (and of course through other means like a hot bath), the body will naturally be able to engage in a deeper sleep.
Yoga and meditation can help you to build a stronger sense of self. While flowing through the poses and practicing mindful breath, you get to know yourself better. As you balance and enhance your physical strength, you are also building self-trust. In addition, the more often you make it to your mat and indulge in self-care and self love practices like yoga, the more you are instilling within your being, the idea that self-care is important and that you are worth it.
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PC: Megan Schnell