Could a simple yoga routine help with mental health?
One of our HeadsUp delivery partners has been practising yoga for some time and here she explores how it makes her feel and how it might help others.
It’s well known that when you are not feeling so well mentally this can impact on the body too. The two are connected in so many ways. Feeling depressed or anxious can cause a build-up of tension in the body and joints can ache, muscles can feel weak or we can feel generally tired and lethargic.
How it might help
Many suggest that a simple regular yoga routine could address this relationship between our mind, emotions and our bodies. A sequence of physical yogic stretches and positions called by the Sanskrit name “asanas”, demonstrates to some, how a seemingly simple practice can provide great benefit. It’s my experience that it’s largely because yoga always co-ordinates breathing with the exercises and holds. When you hold a pose, such as the sitting forward bend or the shoulder stand, and you breathe into it calmly and gently. It’s as if you are sending a message via the breath to the body to heal for a few moments and to take energy from the breath.
It’s subtle communication
A more subtle communication than we have during the rest of the day, it gives us a chance to make a very special connection. Breathing changes the exercise from something that could be static to something that is charged with a soothing and healing potential. I think that becoming more conscious of breathing is so beneficial for mental health, and yoga poses invite this kind of consciousness in. Even a very simple pose when done in alignment with a soft, rhythmic breathing can bring some peace and calm to the body and mind. And if there is pain in the body we can direct the breath, if you like, to that area and allow it to alleviate some of the discomfort.
And it’s accessible
Yoga can be done in a seated position such as chair yoga if it is too difficult to move about on the floor. And it takes up very little space, really more or less the space that our bodies take up with slightly outstretched arms and legs !! When I put my yoga mat down on the floor I feel that I am getting into a beneficial and safe zone. I’m taking some precious time to feel my breathing and my body and to use the two together to feel more grounded and secure in myself. It can be important for people to have a practice like when they’re feeling a little bit unsafe in their minds and in their inner worlds.
Explore what suits you
There are very many yoga teachers out there and classes and it is good I think to use our intuition to find one that is best suited to us. Some classes are more dynamic than others. When starting out it is good I think to go for a more gentle approach. I have been practicing yoga for quite a long time but I still use a very simple, traditional routine and as my body has changed I have adapted the yoga to suit me better. There is something lovely about joining with other people for a yoga class as I think that there is a buzz about practicing together. And these days there are very many classes that can be joined online too or on zoom.