Using Yoga as a Tool to Promote Positive Mental Health
We, at SLV.Global are huge fans of yoga and how it can help to promote positive mental health. In fact, we value it as a therapeutic tool so much it's how we begin and end every session on our placements. But don't just take our word for it, there's loads of research to back up our personal experience. Here are just a few of the reasons why we're gaga for yoga!
1. Its Positive Effects Compliment Western Talk Therapy/Psychotherapy
More and more, yoga is being used in tandem with more Western treatments for mental illness like psychotherapy and CBT. This marrying of Eastern and Western modalities has been used with great success in recent years and Our Clinical and Ancient Psychology program in India focuses on this way of working entirely.
According to this article about the benefits of yoga to mental health, published by the American Psychological Association, "(t)alk therapy can be helpful in finding problem-solving strategies and understanding your own strengths and what's happening to you, but there are times when you just need to kind of get moving and work through the body," says Melanie Greenberg, PhD, a psychology professor at Alliant International University, who has studied yoga's benefits to mental health.
In the same article Ritu Sharma, PhD notes, "When people experience trauma, they may experience not only a sense of emotional deregulation, but also a feeling of being physically immobilised. Body-oriented techniques such as yoga help them increase awareness of sensations in the body, stay more focused on the present moment and hopefully empower them to take effective actions."
2. Practicing Yoga Can Actually Reduce the Symptoms of Mental Illness
This recent study from the University of Pennsylvania found that people with major depressive disorder, for whom medication alone was not providing adequate relief, noticed a decrease in their depression and anxiety symptoms after practising Sudarshan Kriya yoga while continuing to take their medication. But those who only took medication, and did not engage in the yoga practice, saw no changes.
These results are really encouraging for people who may struggle with a medication-heavy treatment plan, and who may not be experiencing the desired effects. Perhaps adding yoga to their daily could yield more encouraging results.
3. Yoga Helps to Connect the Body to the Mind
At SLV.Global, the service users at many of the projects where we work are highly medicated, so often they may remain in the same position for long periods of time and their muscles may atrophy, or shorten. Yoga helps to elongate and stretch the muscles and help service users reconnect the body to the mind by focusing on the breath.
This study, by the American Psychological Association, notes "When compared with contemplative practices that lack active physical activity (e.g., body scanning, meditation), researchers have found yoga to be more effective at increasing mindfulness and wellbeing and reducing perceived stress and anxiety." Meditation is fab, but it's moving your body that gets the blood flowing and releases endorphins, which trigger a positive feeling in the body, leading to mood elevation.
4. Anyone Can Do It
No matter your age, background, or ability, yoga is incredibly inclusive. You can do it on the floor, on a chair, standing up...whatever! And you don't need any equipment.
Char Grossman, a Therapeutic Yoga Specialist, Nationally Certified School Psychologist and Founder of YogaReach, a social initiative for teaching yoga to the differently abled states, "the most important advice I would give anyone who is interested is to teach to the abilities, not the disabilities." We couldn't agree more!
There's a routine for everyone and YouTube is a great resource. This handy sequence is for anyone who may have experienced trauma. And this awesome chair yoga routine can work well for the differently abled. Yoga really is for every body and every mind.
We hope you're suitably inspired and that you're practicing your sukhasana pose, like this chill sloth below, as you read this. Whether you're a certified yogi or a novice, we hope you try integrating some yoga into your routine and let us know how you get on.