28 Sep Take a Stand for Yoga Today
I was introduced to yoga back in the ’70s when Eastern body and mind practices were first coming onto the scene of American culture. It was the time of hippies, tie-dyed tee shirts, musical artists like The Who and Janice Joplin, and Eastern spiritual Gurus spreading their philosophies and spiritual practices in America. My best friend’s older sister lived on an Ashram in Boulder, Colorado, at the time. When she would come back home to visit, she’d share stories of her life there. Her mesmerizing counter-culture tales of making candles, doing meditation and yoga daily, and making meals from her organic garden, alongside her cute boyfriend Jimmy, seemed magical to me. From that point forward, I was hooked–on Yoga! Little did I know back then how much this form of exercise that seemed at first to be just another form of gymnastics to me would work to evolve me emotionally and spiritually through the years.
Yoga has come a long way since the ’70s. Today, a yoga studio is as common a town feature as a local Starbucks. Deep breathing, yoga, meditation, and body treatments like Reiki are now part of mainstream culture and are here to stay. So, don’t think just because they get lumped into a health and therapy category called alternative health practices that they are less important to your well being.
Yoga and Mental Health
There is a growing body of research to back up yoga’s mental health benefits. Yoga increases body awareness, relieves stress, reduces muscle tension, strain, and inflammation, sharpens attention and concentration, and calms and centers the nervous system.
Yoga’s positive benefits on mental health have made it an important practice tool of psychotherapy (American Psychological Association (link is external)). It has been shown to enhance social well being through a sense of belonging to others, and improve the symptoms of depression, attention deficit and hyperactivity, and sleep disorders. Also, yoga can improve symptoms of schizophrenia when it is done alongside drug therapy (Yoga and Mental Health, Huffington Post 2013 (link is external)).
Also, yoga has been shown to increase the level of gamma-aminobutyric acid, or GABA, a chemical in the brain that helps to regulate nerve activity. This is especially relevant to people who have anxiety disorders in which GABA activity is low (Yoga and Your Mood, the Ultimate Yogi (link is external)).
Yoga also improves the mood, behavior, and mindfulness of high school students taking yoga classes in addition to PE than students taking PE alone (yoga classes helps highschool students) (link is external). It has been shown to improve workplace well being and resilience (The Effectiveness of Yoga for Well Being in the Workplace (link is external)).
But, let’s not stop here. Yoga’s benefits extend to adult caregivers who experience lower life satisfaction, depression, and stress and high levels of biological markers for inflammation. One study found that practicing a 12-minute daily eight week program of yoga exercise resulted in reducing markers of inflammation in adults taking care of loved ones stricken with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia (UCLA’s Late-Life Depress, Stress and Wellness Research Program (link is external)).
To read full article, visit Psychology Today.