How Does Yoga Improve Mental Health?

The Evolution of Yoga

Yoga has grown in popularity over the years. In the ’70’s it was thought of as a hippy thing that only those wearing beads in their hair practiced. Then in the 90’s and early 2000’s it was looked on as a practice that only the totally health conscious participated in. Now gyms everywhere offer yoga classes of any level, whether the individual is just learning or if they’ve been standing on their fingertips since the ‘70’s. And to top it off, companies are adding gym memberships to insurance coverage for their employees and many of those employees are going to the gym to take advantage of the yoga classes, no longer just for the hippies or health conscious! What is it about yoga that keeps people flocking to it?

Breath, Relax and Breath Again

When practicing yoga, one of the first things an individual is taught is how to breath. Now anyone alive would say they already know how to breath. However, when practicing yoga, one finds out quickly that the technique of breathing is one of the most important processes to learn and they don’t know breath as well as they thought. The other is to relax. One does not relax if they are not breathing properly. Deep breaths and shallow breaths are equally important. By breathing properly, one learns to relax their mind and free themselves from the worries of the day (

A study in 2007 showed results that an hour of yoga increased GABA (Gamma Aminobutyric Acid), a chemical that acts as the brain’s chief inhibitory neurotransmitter. ( GABA blocks impulses between nerve cells in the brain. Essentially, this chemical will slow down the busyness of the brain, rather than increase it. By slowing things down in the brain, it allows opportunities of clearer thinking, less anxiety and has even been found to help those who suffer from PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). Those that have low GABA may find that they have anxiety or mood disorders, epilepsy or even chronic pain (

Another study performed found that the deep state of rest achieved by practicing yoga allows the body to increase immunity, energy metabolism and insulin secretion ( Not only does yoga provide mental and psychological benefits, but it can also produce physical benefits. By calming the mind and entering a state of deep rest and relaxation, the body is able to become biologically relaxed on a cellular level, which in turn allows the body to produce adrenaline to the brain, heart and muscles. This is necessary to function in everyday life.

Yoga is not just about manipulating the body into seemingly impossible positions. Though a person practicing yoga will find that they have more flexibility and experience fewer injuries. The body will adapt to the extended stretches, become better balanced, and all around healthy. Folks that practice yoga also find that they have a better outlook on life and feel less likely to take offense to the actions of others. They have found a way to live their own life and be happy living it the way they do. The actions of others become less important, the family and friends they have in their immediate circle become increasingly more valuable.

By practicing yoga whether it is daily or a few times a month, not only does this help improve mental health, it also decreases the number of office visits to the doctor or hospital. However, before starting yoga, as with any type of new exercise, always seek the council of a medical expert. This is especially important if an individual has such medical conditions as a herniated disk, a risk of blood clots, pregnancy, severe balance issues, severe osteoporosis and uncontrolled blood pressure issues ( Once cleared, although it would seem easier to simply start practicing yoga at home to prevent the embarrassment of being a beginner and not completing the poses correctly, beginners should join a class. This will allow them to be taught the poses correctly as well as learn the proper technique of breathing while practicing.

Mental Health Is Just As Important As Physical Health

Whether a person is in the Warrior pose, Downward Dog, or doing their Sun Salutations, the bottom line is they are doing a fantastic benefit to their body, increasing their overall mental health, and improving their psychological health. It is not always about becoming thinner or eating plant-based foods. Although eating vegetables are most definitely beneficial (that’s for another article), yoga has proven time and again that there is more to having overall good health than simply improving muscle mass.


Image Credits:

Peaceful Yoga Meditation [ID 605543 © Ioana Grecu |]

Spiritual Yoga Routine [ID 113578791 © Chernishev Maksim |]