Yoga is a practice of poses and breathing techniques designed to strengthen and balance the body and the mind.
Currently, 15 million Americans practice yoga regularly and every year that number grows by 20%. (1)
In recent years there has been an explosion of interest in this 5,000 year old practice, by why?
It could be because of the many proven general health benefits of yoga — improved strength and flexibility, weight loss, and management of pain and chronic illnesses. (2)
But more importantly the rise of the interest in yoga is due more to its mental health benefits since its meteoric rise in popularity coincides with skyrocketing rates of stress, anxiety, insomnia, depression, and other common mood disorders.
More than 90% of people start a yoga practice for stress relief or physical health benefits, but they stay with yoga for emotional or spiritual reasons. (3)
Here are some of the proven ways yoga can transform your brain, mood, and mental health.
Yoga for Anxiety
Yoga is said to be the best exercise to reduce physical stress.
By slowing down rapid breathing and heart rates Yoga modulates perceived stress and anxiety. Exercise of all kinds increases “feel good” neurotransmitters but yoga stands out as a proven GABA booster. When you relax it is basically your brain putting the brakes on your brain activity.
If you are feeling stressed or anxious, easy yoga poses to try include fire log pose, cow pose, lotus pose, salutation seal, upward salute, and cat pose.
Yoga for Depression
Numerous studies have shown yoga to be of benefit for those with depression. Yoga compares favorably in its effects to other mind-body techniques.
When compared to visualization and breathing exercises, those who practiced yoga felt more alert, energetic, and had a more positive mood. (8)
By increasing the levels of brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a protein that acts like fertiliser for the brain, stimulating the formation of new brain cells, yoga acts as a natural antidepressant.
Beginner poses for depression include corpse pose, easy pose, and upward facing dog.
Yoga to Improve Memory and Concentration
Find yourself staring at the same page or screen for minutes on end? Its time to hit the mat! Yoga can boost brain power even more than doing conventional exercise.
Yoga brings your mind and body into a state of now, which allows your brain to focus on the tasks at hand.
So the next time you’re feeling mentally fuzzy at work, instead of grabbing a cup of coffee, grab a chair and do some desk yoga.
Beginner poses that you can unobtrusively do at your desk include neck rolls, eagle arms, and seated spinal twist.
If you still need some inspiration to get started with your yoga practice, we recommend giving one of our classes a go. Our friendly staff across all Peak Physique Hot Yoga studios will give you all the guidance you need.