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Yoga and Mental Health

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Yoga is an ancient practice that originated in India around 5,000 years ago. It includes physical poses, breathing exercises, meditation, and relaxation techniques. Research shows that yoga helps reduce stress, increase flexibility, enhance strength, improve mood, and promote overall health. Yoga also improves mental functioning and increases concentration. A study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found that yoga could help prevent Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Another study found that regular yoga practice helped reduce symptoms of depression. There are many types of yoga, including Ashtanga, Bikram, Hatha, Kundalini, Iyengar, Vinyasa, and Yin. Each has a slightly different approach but all benefit your mental health in the same way.

The Science of Yoga

Yoga’s physical benefits to the brain and body have been proven to reduce stress levels in the body and increase the production of feel-good chemicals like endorphins. Yoga helps prevent brain shrinkage and improves cognitive function. Plus, yoga has the ability to reduce your heart rate, respiration rate, and blood pressure.

A study by researchers at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto, Canada and Brigham and Women’s Hospital at Harvard Medical School found that participants in a kundalini yoga program showed greater changes in measures of sleep, positive affect, perceived stress, anxiety, stress, and resilience than those who didn’t do yoga.

Researchers compared the brains of people who practice yoga to those who listen to music or read books. Those who did yoga had higher concentrations of neurotransmitters that activate the parasympathetic nervous systems, which calm down the body. People who listened to music or read had lower levels of these neurotransmitters. “Yoga helps us relax and reduce stress,” said Dr. Keenmon. She added that people who practice yoga also tend to have fewer depressive symptoms.

“Yoga is not about performing a pose perfectly, but instead about being perfectly okay with my body and mind in the moment” – Ann Swanson, author of The Science of Yoga

By reinforcing positive behaviours, yoga gives us the tools to break negative thought patterns. This allows us to choose healthier patterns when challenges arise. A 2015 review of two decades of research found that specific areas of the brain are commonly affected by yoga-based mindfulness. It showed that key areas of the frontal cortex are strengthened, helping you effectively recognise and regulate emotions. Brain scans reported in a different study from 2018 demonstrated that yoga asanas and meditation both reduced the amygdala volume on the right side of the brain which is associated with negative emotions and fear.

Depression is a very common condition that affects many people throughout the world. There are several different types of depression, each with its own causes and characteristics. Major depressive disorder (MDD), also called clinical depression, is one of the most common forms of depression. A 2017 meta-analyses study found out that yoga-based treatments were effective in treating depression (10Trusted Source). These studies show that yoga may be useful in managing depression.

How to use Yoga

Yoga is a great way to relax and de-stress. It helps you get rid of tension and lower your heart rate. Yoga can help reduce stress because it increases the level of GABA in your body. Yoga is not just about stretching and bending your body. It’s also about breathing and meditation. When you do yoga, you move through different postures, each designed to stretch and strengthen specific muscles. Some yoga poses require you to hold certain positions for long periods of time. Others involve moving quickly from pose to pose. When you meditate, you calm down your limbic system, which is the part of your brain that controls emotions. You will have less anxiety and depression if you practice meditation regularly.

Yoga is an ancient form of exercise that combines physical postures, breathing exercises, meditation, and philosophy of self-awareness. Yoga has been shown to decrease stress and increase flexibility and strength. It has also been found to help with insomnia, back pain, headaches, arthritis, asthma, hypertension, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and even obesity. A study of 60 patients with major depressive disorder showed that those who participated in a 12-week program of hatha yoga had significant improvements in symptoms of depression and anxiety.

Aside from the physical benefits, one of the best benefits of yoga is how it helps a person manage stress, which is known to have devastating effects on the body and mind. “Stress can reveal itself in many ways, including back or neck pain, sleeping problems, headaches, drug abuse, and an inability to concentrate,” says Dr. Nevins. “Yoga can be very effective in developing coping skills and reaching a more positive outlook on life.” Yoga’s incorporation of meditation and breathing can help improve a person’s mental well-being. “Regular yoga practice creates mental clarity and calmness; increases body awareness; relieves chronic stress patterns; relaxes the mind; centers attention; and sharpens concentration,” says Dr. Nevins. Body- and self-awareness are particularly beneficial, she adds, “because they can help with early detection of physical problems and allow for early preventive action.” Back To Top



If you go to a yoga class, you’ll meet new people and form a social group of people who share your interest in yoga. This connection with others is essential for our well-being.  All types of classes will beat the loneliness that some people may experience but a yoga class is non-competitive and is great fun. The social benefits of getting yourself to a class can not be underestimated.

Whether you deal with too much stress in your everyday life; suffer from depression, PTSD or anxiety; or want to simply improve the overall health and function of your body, yoga could be the perfect solution you’ve been looking for.


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Ray and Dan started Valley of the Mad as a brand focused on mental health. Our aim is to raise awareness of mental health, support those that may be finding it difficult and improve access to resources.

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