The (Me)ntal (Heal)th of Yoga
Most of us recognize that when we breath and move, we feel better. Slowing down and taking time to de stress, relaxes our body and mind, isn’t just a “buzz phrase.” There are physiological, as well as psychological proven benefits that extend well beyond the mat when you practice yoga and deeply affects your mental health.
Thursday night I held a salon conversation connecting youth with the positive platform of mental health and at risk youth. Yoga came up frequently, from all the speakers, as one of the best forms of exercise that can be implemented into schools to help promote self confidence, discipline, and balance.
Lets dig deeper and answer these questions…
Can yoga help them do more than just feel a little bit better?
Can it heal their mental illness?
Yoga has long been seen as a tool for improving mental health, although concepts of what that entails have shifted over time and are distinct in different cultures. Not to mention mental health statistics vary globally.
Mental illness affects 1 in every 3 Canadians, and what most of us do not realize is that suicide is the second largest killer of young adults between the ages of 15-24. The annual National Survey on Drug Use and Health, states about 20 percent of adults suffer some sort of mental illness each year, and about 5 percent experience a serious disorder that disrupts work, family or social life. In Canada, one 1 out of every 6 children or youth has access to mental health resources. These are staggering numbers.
There are several schools of yoga that focus specifically on the intersections between asana practice and emotional health, and a growing body of studies indicates that yoga is often an excellent tool to treat the troubled mind.
My personal opinion on style is through experience with populations who have or are at risk for mental illness, and what I have found works for clients with mood disorders and especially my work with vets in the Canadian Armed Forces, injured in combat, a Yin style or light Vinyasa seem to have the largest affect. Both involve breath work and slow, controlled movement.
To date, the most persuasive evidence of the benefits of hatha yoga, and in particular pranayama, stems from research conducted by the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuroscience in India. New studies have shown a high success rate—up to 73 percent—for treating depression with breathing. .” It involves breathing naturally through the nose, mouth closed, in three distinct rhythms.
Yoga has been integrated into many high stress service careers; such as police departments and the Canadian Armed Forces. People who suffer from operational stress injuries or jobs that are high stress physically, as well as mentally are at greater risk, and Yoga can help combat high stress levels. Stress is one of the key factors in the onset of depression and anxiety.
Other benefits of yoga on our mental can include; improved ability to sleep, better moods, increased feelings of self-control, and better concentration and focus.
Check out the full report in The Washington Post : http://wapo.st/wzYeST
Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA): http://vancouver-burnaby.cmha.bc.ca/