The practice of yoga has a lot of benefits. Yoga has more benefits than just the obvious physical benefits. Athletes and people who love the gym often use yoga as a cross-training exercise that helps with increasing core strength, improving flexibility, and balance.
While these are mostly physiological benefits, yoga also has a long list of other benefits. And these other benefits include psychological benefits that are supported by studies conducted in the past years while yoga’s popularity continues to increase.
Here are the top 5 psychological benefits of yoga:
It improves your mood
The production of chemicals or hormones in the body often affects our mood. Many disorders are often associated with a chemical imbalance in the brain, and doing yoga helps promote the production of critical brain chemicals needed for regulating nerve activities.
GABA or gamma-aminobutyric acid is a chemical that people with anxiety disorders lack. To maintain the level of GABA, people with anxiety are prescribed drugs that help in the production of GABA. A study conducted in 2010 shows how yoga naturally increases the level of GABA in the brain. Suggesting that it stimulates the brain to produce more antidepressant neurotransmitters and chemicals. This results in a better general mood.
It helps with depression and anxiety
As mentioned above, the practice of yoga naturally affects the production of different chemicals in the body. For example, studies suggest that meditation and yoga increase the production of serotonin in the body. This chemical is also called the happy hormone since it promotes happiness and well-being.
At the same time, yoga is known to reduce the production of cortisol, which is a primary stress hormone. When exposed to stress, especially chronic stress, the brain’s neurobiological mechanisms cannot function as it’s supposed to. Both mental and physical health will be affected.
Depression is also affected by the person’s perception and how they react to stressors. As discussed in a study from 2013, the techniques used in yoga are effective in changing one’s perspective and how they react to events and situations.
Additionally, yoga can help to reduce anxiety with a combination of physical poses, meditation, and breathing techniques to promote relaxation and a sense of calm.
It improves concentration
Concentration is important in our daily lives. It allows us to do specific tasks and focus on the positive. Aside from that, being mindful and focus is very important in yoga. However, with all the distractions around, it may be difficult to concentrate and focus. The techniques used in yoga require focus and you can even say that it is centered on concentration. Each movement in yoga needs you to be mentally present.
This research from 2011 shows how 70 participants improved their concentration levels after participating in a 30 minutes yoga session. Aside from the concentration levels, there is also a positive change in their stress level, energy, and overall well-being.
It promotes better sleep
There are different styles of yoga, depending on what your body needs. There is Ashtanga yoga, Vinyasa yoga, Yin Yoga, and Restorative Yoga. While the level of intensity of each style differs, in general, yoga is an effective way to relax the body.
The different yoga poses combined with meditation and pranayama are important in calming the mind and body. It allows the body to quickly return to equilibrium and improve sleep and activates the parasympathetic nervous system in the body that helps you get a restful sleep. And the parasympathetic nervous system can only be activated with a lower level of cortisol in the body.
A research study in 2013 shows the effect of yoga in depressive outpatients. 54 people were observed, wherein 16 were provided anti-depressant drugs while 19 were introduced to yoga, and the rest as healthy subjects. The results showed a significant drop in cortisol levels on the subjects introduced to yoga as compared to those who were only treated with drugs.
It helps decrease hostility
In yogic beliefs, anger is considered important. It is believed to be an energy that pushes a person to act and accomplish things. This energy is called Rajastic energy. However, if this energy is not controlled, it can result in hostility.
Yoga has a calming effect that reduces the amount of hostility one may feel when angered. The calming effect greatly influences the nervous system, resulting in a healthier, calmer approach to anything. An article published in 2016 explains how yoga helps in addressing hostile behaviors through the practice of Asanas, Pranayama, meditation, and different philosophies in yoga. These practices help in maintaining peace of mind and serenity.
There is no doubt that yoga is a practice that helps improve lives – mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.