Yoga for Mental Health
What is Yoga for mental health?
It's well known that yoga is good for the body. Most people also know that one of the extra perks of yoga, is that it's also good for the mind.
In fact, in a study conducted by Penman (2005) it was found that 58.4% of yoga students started yoga for the primary purpose of reducing their stress and anxiety. What's even cooler is that 79.4% of those same students, CONTINUED practicing yoga because it was so effective in helping them manage their stress and anxiety.
Something I've heard time and again as a Clinical Psychologist from people who experience anxiety, depression or trauma is that they experience their bodies as 'the enemy'. Their bodies are a source of distressing often uncontrollable experiences and sensations of panic, agitation, tension, heart palpitations, nausea, difficulty breathing, lethargy, fatigue, heaviness or even paralysis and immobilisation. With this being the case, it would seem obvious that yoga could be beneficial for their mental health; as an incidental bonus on top of the physical benefits such as flexibility, strength and balance.
However ... The interesting thing is that for people who have diagnosed anxiety, depression or trauma (whether interpersonal trauma, vicarious trauma from the workplace i.e. Police and Paramedics, or trauma from an accident or environmental event i.e. bushfire) the 'standard' yoga class can actually have the opposite effect to what they're hoping. I know many people who have tried yoga and either hated it or freaked out or both. Any for most of those, it was because it created more distress for them.
Who would want to go back if that was their experience? No one. That's who.
But yoga CAN be really helpful. It just needs to be the 'right' kind of yoga. Across the USA and UK, many government funded mental health organisations are now including 'mental health aware yoga' in their programs. These classes don't aggravate anxiety, add to the lethargy of depression or trigger trauma responses. In fact, research in the area of mental health aware yoga consistently demonstrates tangible psychological and physiological benefits.
Mental health aware yoga combines asana (physical postures), pranayama (breath techniques) and meditation in a way that is safe. It introduces people to these practices in a way that respects the physical and psychological struggles they have; working with where each person is at and not beyond.
It offers a safe way to balance the out-of-balance nervous system. And when the body is calm, the mind calms. And when the body feels lighter, the mind wakes up (in a good way).
But on top of that, yoga for mental health also helps people to;
- Develop or strengthen their sense of self
- Learn to tolerate their body’s sensations
- Find strength and stability in their body – and with that, safety
- Regulate their physiology and their emotion
- Be able to separate their gut instinct from their fear(s)
- Encourage behavioural activation
- Identify ways of overcoming lethargy and brain fog
- Undo fight, flight, freeze and submit responses and instead cultivate new and safe action patterns
- Remember traumatic experiences without physically and psychologically reliving it
If you'd like to join one of our Yoga for Mental Health programs, flick through an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or fill in the form below and we'll notify you of the dates of the next round. It's also useful to mention that with enough participants (6-10) and with a Mental Health Care Plan (if your GP believes your eligible for one) you can receive a rebate for these sessions.
I want to talk to my GP about Yoga for Mental Health
Want to talk to talk to your GP about Yoga for Mental Health, but don't know where to start? We've got you covered.
We've written a short, one page letter that you can take along with you to you next GP appointment. This outlines the benefits of Yoga for Mental Health, and gives some guidance on how this can be included on your Mental Health Care Plan.