Benefits Of Yoga: Why Is Yoga Good For Your Mind?

benefits of yoga

When I was younger, I didn’t think I would ever be into yoga. Despite its benefits, I never considered giving yoga a try as I used to be more of a gym type of a person.

I liked the feeling of having broken some sweat and thought that yoga wouldn’t to do much for me. What’s the point in paying for an hour of stretching? Nah, I’ll stick to swimming, cardio, and weights.

Oh, the irony of life. It had something different in store for me. A friend of mine asked me to join a yoga class with her. With very little enthusiasm, I tagged along. I had zero knowledge of Sanskrit or any of the poses, and I was a lot weaker and less flexible than I’d thought.

Nonetheless, I loved it. A few months in, my strength and flexibility improved, and I was feeling calmer and more content. In, fact, yoga had affected me both on the outside and inside.

Yoga can be great for staying in shape, and it has several benefits to the body, but it’s more than just a workout. Yoga is union.

It aims to bring awareness of our hyperactive mind back to the body and the present moment. It teaches us to look for contentment within us rather than rely on external factors. With that, it influences our minds in many positive ways.

10 Benefits of Yoga for the Mind

1. Relaxation

Did you have a stressful day at work and need to wind down? Get on the mat and enjoy the benefits of yoga.

Our anatomic nervous system handles the function of the internal organs and bodily functions such as heart rate, breathing, and digestion. It consists of two parts – the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system. The former manages the “fight and flight” response while the latter – puts the body in the “rest and digest” mode.

When you’re under threat, your breathing speeds up. As a result, the heart starts pounding. That’s the sympathetic system trying to get you to safety. In ancient times, it helped our ancestors escape from dangerous animals.

Nowadays, we don’t need to worry about them. Yet, situations that aren’t life-threatening also trigger the “fight and flight” response. These can be traffic jams, deadlines, arguments, or problems.

That’s where yoga comes in. It’s been scientifically proven that asana practice activates the relaxation response and lowers heart rate and cortisol levels. It also slows down our breathing and increases blood flow to internal organs. Exactly what you need after a nerve-wracking workday.

2. Improved Concentration and Cognitive Function

Besides relaxation, yoga helps you focus. Researchers found out that after a single 20-minute Hatha yoga class participants could complete tests faster and more accurately. This means that they were more likely to understand, remember, and use new information.

Yoga doesn’t only provide short-term benefits. It influences memory in the long run as well by keeping it sharp and minimizing its decline as we age.

According to studies, older adults became faster and more accurate at performing tasks. They were less distracted, had better verbal memory, and could switch between tasks faster. They also had fewer cognitive and emotional problems associated with Alzheimer’s and dementia.

3. Better Self-Awareness

There is a saying that a flexible body houses a flexible mind. That actually may be scientifically accurate.

Yogic practices increase our ability to self-regulate our emotions, stress, and behaviors. So, a yogi may be less likely to lash out on a slow cashier after a hard day at work, and instead be kind and polite.

4. Higher Self-Esteem

I recently read an article saying that 4 out of 5 Australian women had low self-esteem. What made this even worse was that out of the 13 countries, where the survey took place, Australia ranked 11th.

It means that there are ten countries with even worse results. If you consider yourself to be among the people with low self-esteem, this may be another reason to give yoga a try. A study found that regular sessions may give you a confidence boost.

5. More Positive Outlook on Life

If you’ve ever left a yoga class feeling that the world is all rainbows and unicorns, there’s an explanation for that. Science has discovered a connection between yoga and mood.

Yoga impacts the levels of GABA, a neurotransmitter that calms the nervous system and reduces anxiety. You are in a good mood when your GABA levels are high and sad or anxious when they are low.

Yoga practice is calming and meditative. So, it raises your GABA levels and makes you feel more positive.

6. Stress and Anxiety Relief

Regular activation of the “fight and flight” response causes stress hormones to build up in your body. This can end up in, well, more stress and anxiety. To deal with that, our parasympathetic system needs to seriously step up its game.

Regular yoga and meditation practice can help us with that. It hinders the areas in the brain responsible for fear and aggression and stimulates the pleasure centers.

This slows down breathing, lowers heart rate and blood pressure, and makes other changes that are necessary to provide relief from stress and anxiety.

7. Relief from Headaches and Migraines

Do you experience frequent headaches or migraines? There may be a good reason to put that Aspirin back in the medicine cupboard and enjoy the benefits of yoga instead. Many studies have concluded that it can relieve migraines and various types of headaches.

8. Battling Depression

With more than 300 million people affected worldwide, depression seems to be the silent epidemic of the modern world.

Depression manifests itself in many different ways. It can be sadness, apathy, hopelessness, self-loathing, headaches, sleep and eating problems, fatigue, and lethargy. There’s another thing that those with depression have in common, and that is low levels of GABA.

And, guess what’s great for increasing the GABA levels? Yoga! Because of that, easing depression is another benefit of practicing yoga.

9. More Positive Body Image and Coping with Eating Disorders

Eating disorders affect over 30 million people in the USA alone and claim a life every 62 minutes. What makes them even more dangerous is that only about a third of the people with eating disorders ever receive treatment.

Studies and surveys have concluded that people with eating disorders who practiced yoga regularly became less critical of their bodies and more content with how they looked.

That’s because yoga focuses on mindfulness and integrates meditation. This makes us more aware of our bodies and helps us take better care of them and make healthier food choices.

10. Overcoming Traumatic Experiences

People suffering from traumatic experiences can also benefit from regular yoga sessions. Yoga can reduce the symptoms of PTSD, improve emotional awareness, and help to tolerate experiences caused by fear and helplessness.

Choose the Type of Yoga that Brings You the Most Benefits

Yoga can add a number of benefits to anyone’s life. Hopefully, you, too, have found at least one reason to take up, stick to, or deepen your practice.

Yet, with the multitude of yoga available out there, it can be a challenge to find the right yoga class.

Some types of yoga are faster and more physically demanding. It makes them more suitable for achieving physical goals. In the meantime, others are slower and more meditative. This makes them perfect for winding down and de-stressing.

Try out a few and see what feels best for you.

Categories: About Yoga


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