Ah, yoga…it is not just for the super flexible and fit. Numerous studies show how even a basic and relaxing yoga practice can benefit you emotionally on many levels.
An Oxford study found that yoga swing breathing restores energy better than relaxation or visualization.1 Also, like any workout, it stimulates the blood flow, heats up muscles and releases endorphins, giving you a feel good energy boost.
Several studies have shown how yoga helps relieve depression:
- A 10 week program of 75 minute Restorative Yoga classes showed the participants had a 50% reduction in depression and 12% increase in feelings of peace and meaning after doing yoga. 2
- Another study found that after a 1 hour yoga session brain scans of participants showed an increase in the brain neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric (GABA). Low GABA is linked to mild to moderate depression, irritability and anxiety. 3
- Psychologist David Shapiro, PhD of UCLA found that participants doing Iyengar yoga three times a week for eight weeks had significant reduction in depression, anxiety and neurotic symptoms after class.
A Japanese study published in the Journal of Palliative Medicine found yoga to be effective in relieving anxiety of cancer patients by “increasing resilience and stress-coping abilities” if practiced long enough.
- Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
A study published by the psychiatric medical journal, CNS Spectrums, studied 22 adults with obsessive compulsive disorder. Half the group did meditation and the other half Kundalini yoga for three months. The yoga group had a 40% improvement, compared to 14% of the meditation group. After a year there was a 70% improvement.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- The Trauma Center at the Justice Resource Institute in Brookline, Massachusetts, studied women who participated in eight 75 minute Hatha yoga sessions. The women had a significant reduction in PTSD symptoms compared to the control group.
- Clinical psychologist Richard Miller, PhD, developed a nine-week, twice weekly Yoga Nidra program, which has been tested by the Department of Defense on active-duty soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan that has PTSD. After the program, the soldiers reported reduced insomnia, depression, fear and anxiety. They also had an increased sense of control over their lives and better interpersonal relationships.
Stress and Cortisol Levels
- An Indian study published in the March 2009 Integrative Cancer Therapies journal found that yoga decreased salivary cortisol levels in breast cancer patients. Cortisol is known as the “stress hormone” because it is activated when you are stressed. 7
- Several studies published in the Indian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology (Vol. 48, No. 3) showed that yoga reduces the stress response, which includes sympathetic nervous system activity and cortisol levels. Yoga enhances resilience to stress and creates better mind-body awareness, which in turn helps people adjust reactions and behaviors based on physical sensations.
Healthier Body Image
Research shows that women yoga practitioners report more body satisfaction and less self-objectification. Yoga makes you more sensitive to any physical sensations and the body’s feedback. This makes you less preoccupied with your appearance and helps with healthy eating habits. Finally, it enhances the mind-body connection, which makes you look more positively at your body.
yoga trapeze matches breathing with movement, which concentrates the mind and trains it to find calm and peace and makes you look at the body differently.
Yoga practitioners report a decrease in hostile feelings as well as feeling more in control when they get angry. The breath synchronized movement of yoga and yogic meditation in turn calm the nervous system, which also decrease hostility.
Positive Outlook and Optimism
Continuous practice of yoga balances many hormones and the nervous system, which helps increase a positive outlook on life.
Attention, Focus and Self-Control
Synchronizing the breath with the movement of each yoga pose requires attention, focus and self-control. Continuous practice of the three in yoga carries over into every day tasks.
Calm and Peace
Yoga requires great concentration on what the body is doing and experiencing, which focuses and calms the mind. Yogic meditation induces even greater peace and a sense of tranquility.
aerial yoga hammock and yogic meditation teach you that everything in life is connected. Yoga practice starts as something for yourself, but with continuous practice, you start to connect more with others around you and thus improve your social skills