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What is Yoga for Mental Health?

Updated: Apr 10

I am a yoga teacher who lives every single day with mental illness. Many moons ago, when I still worked in Corporate Human Resources, I devoted myself to a consistent yoga practice to help manage my stress. The results I witnessed and felt in my mind and body were catalysts for me to become a yoga teacher. My yoga practice is the most important tool in my mental health toolkit. I've taught yoga from a mental health perspective since 2016, read on to learn more about this practice.


Woman sitting in front of a computer holding gyana mudra

What is Yoga?


If you are visiting this blog, I assume you currently have a working definition of yoga. Is your definition of yoga what you've witnessed in the Western world? You may be missing out on the other 7/8 of the practice.


Is your definition solely based on what you've seen in Western yoga? Is your definition influenced by makers of yoga pants and that mat that you HAVE to have in order to practice?


The philosophy of yoga is based on 8 limbs that are better described as ethical principles for meaningful and purposeful living. While there is no specific definition, yoga has been interpreted as a process of uniting the body via mind and spirit to promote physical and mental wellness. Asana (the physical practice that most people think is yoga) is only 1 part of the 8 limbs.


Yoga does not require the practitioner to wear certain pants, use a particular mat, or force their bodies into the same shapes as another yogi.


What is Mental Health?


The time of denying Mental Health is over. Since February 2020 we have all been living through a collective traumatic experience that continually impacts the mental health of millions if not billions of people.


Mental health is a state of well-being in which a person understands his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to contribute to his or her community.


We all experience Mental Health. Just like with our physical health, some of us need a few more tools to regulate AND THAT'S OK!


What is Yoga for Mental Health?


Not all yoga practices encompass and offer the specific techniques and practices that will impact mental health and your nervous system. Yoga for mental health is a practice that focuses on working with and healing the nervous system through asana (physical postures), pranayama (breathwork), and mediation while also encouraging self exploration through the other 5 limbs of yoga.


Just like any other type of physical or mental therapy there is a difference between types of yoga. Not all yoga practices impact the nervous system in the same way. You may be conditioned to think that a vigorous vinyasa flow will help you diminish and release anxiety but in reality your nervous system is BEGGING you to slow down and find stillness.


Sequences are tailored specifically to the student or the mental health condition rather than encouraging a cookie-cutter series of poses.


What the Research Shows


It truly is an exciting time to be a yoga teacher as western science is starting to slightly catch up with the yoga philosophy. The research is proving that millennia old techniques work for modern problems. Numerous peer-reviewed studies suggest that yoga helps strengthen social attachments, reduce stress, as well as relieve anxiety, depression, and insomnia (just to name a few.)


The evidence continues to grow more and more each year.


Examples of Yoga for Mental Health Protocol Goals


Depression:

  • Activate the body & build heat

  • Move the body to interrupt negative thought patterns

  • Create & foster a sense of support while building confidence & presences

Anxiety:

  • Activate grounding energy & stabilization

  • Generate an opportunity to slow down & turn down nervousness and fear

  • Create & foster a sense of safety & support while building confidence & presence

PTSD:

  • Engage the parasympathetic nervous system to give the autonomic nervous system a chance to adapt

  • Develop mind-body awareness through consistent practice

  • Create & foster a sense of safety & support while building confidence & presence.

There is a yoga protocol for your mental illness!


Want to Experience a Yoga for Mental Health Class?


Through Sole Journey Yoga, I create offerings fully dedicated to working with the nervous system in a trauma informed way. Sole Journey Yoga offers weekly live classes that are capped at no more than 12 students per class. Additionally I offer private yoga lessons that are completely tailored to you to help you support your needs & goals.. These classes are virtual and allow you to practice from the comfort of wherever you are. Click Here to learn more about the ways we can work together.


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I'm Dani

I blend the transformative power of therapeutic yoga and career coaching to guide your toward holistic well-being and professional fulfillment. 

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