Updated: Oct 6
Today 10 Oct 2021 is World Mental Health Day. Let's look at how yoga can help to improve our mental health and overall well-being.
I never would have imagined the super anxious person I used to be could be in the front seat of teaching people how to be calm and quiet their minds. But we teach best from what we learn and experience first hand, don't we? I have it all thanks to my yoga practice. I am still anxious at times over slightest things. Anxiety is not something we cultivate or habitualize, it is also genetic and hereditary. But we all have the power to change this. With my yoga practice, I am in better control of my anxiety way more than before.
The breath- Pranayama
First with noticing how I feel and the breath is the powerful tool to practice this. By noticing our breaths and separating us away from the stressful situation, we will become more grounded and calm. With just a few minutes of deep breathing or alternate nostril breathing (which we often teach in class), we will gain focus, balance and mental clarity then when we look at the stressful situation that has made us anxious and nervous, we will be more responsive to it rather than reactive to it. Nowadays, I am still anxious, but I am able to catch myself being anxious and realize that I have the power to change how I feel about the stress triggering event with one simple step: connecting with my breath.
The physical exercise- Asana
Like any physical exercise, our asana practice helps us to release feel-good hormones like dopamine, seratonine and endorphines. They help to shift our energy, elevate our moods and increase our sense of total wellbeing and happiness. Ever feel so good after exercising? We all have to thank our feel-good hormones for this.
They also boost your self-esteem, trigger our positive emotions and feelings. They help you to sleep better. When you sleep well and feeling happy, your mental state is naturally heightened and improved.
The relaxation and meditation- Dhyana
Relaxation is one of the main elements of a yoga class, at least for our classes at Yoga Peace Australia. We ALWAYS incorporate a good amount of relaxation practice in our class. We often hold tention and tightness in our muscles without us even knowing it. Relaxation may come natural to some, some have to practice to get it. When we practice yoga often, we will learn how to relax our bodies more. When we relax our bodies, our minds relax. We will be more calm and peaceful to face any stressful situation in life.
You may have heard the quote " Quiet the mind, the soul will speak". Quieting the mind can only be found in taking time to connect to it, may be not to stop the thoughts, but to notice them and see which thoughts you want to keep as your favourite playlist. In our classes, our meditation practice is simple and very accessible. We won't ask you to sit still in lotus pose like an image of a graceful Buddist monk in meditation. You can choose any comfortable position, we often encourage you to lie down. All we ask you to practice is to be present with your breath and the sensation you feel in your body or sometimes we walk you through a body scan practice or a visualization to take you on a journey to your favourite sanctuary.
As we practice meditation more often, we will become more aware of our thoughts and our feelings. We will learn to allow the positive ones to stay and release the negative ones. When we focus on positive energy and feelings, we will naturally attract more of them into our lives. The law of attraction!
Knowing all these benefits of how yoga can help to improve your mental health, what can do you do reap these benefits in your own life? The only way to it is to SHOW UP.
Don't worry about the mat or the attire if you don't already have them, just start to practice it. There are many youtube channels and websites that you can start this magical journey for free. It doesn't even take a lot of your time. You can start a small daily practice like 15-20 minutes. We have many free short classes on our FB page that you can use to practice daily for free. Take small baby steps but you need to keep showing up.
Doing it alone can be hard. Community has always been one of the main factors that keep us on track and help us to follow through. At Yoga Peace Australia, we have a small yet very dedicated yogi community with whom you will defintely find a place where you can belong, make a friend or two and grow your practice with.
I hope to see you in the practice soon. Happy World Mental Health Day!
See you soon,
Annie and the YPA team