Yoga for the body and mind
Yoga has been around for thousands of years, but only over the past couple of centuries has it become increasingly popular in the Western world. It offers a range of benefits for the body, but can also do wonders for the mind!
There is growing interest in the role of yoga as an intervention for mental health issues, including anxiety, depression and trauma, and the amount of evidence supporting its effectiveness continues to rise.
Yoga and the body
We tend to think about mental health issues as being ‘disorders’ of the mind, but anyone who has experienced mental health issues will know that symptoms can be felt all throughout the body.
The racing heart and difficulty breathing experienced with anxiety can be incredibly overwhelming. The tiredness and lethargy associated with depression can make even the simplest tasks feel impossible to achieve. People who have experienced trauma can feel very disconnected from their bodies, or sometimes describe feeling trapped or frozen inside their bodies.
Yoga is known to decrease physiological arousal and muscle tension in the body. It can help to reduce our heart rate and lower blood pressure. Yoga also reduces stress and cortisol levels, which helps people to become less reactive.
Another benefit of yoga is that it can help people to become more in tune and connected with their bodies. With this increased awareness, people are better able to notice and respond to physical symptoms, rather than waiting for them to build up and become overwhelming.
Yoga and the mind
So much of our time is spent thinking about something other than the present moment.
The anxious mind might ruminate over mistakes we have made, or worry about an upcoming work event. A depressed mind might get stuck in a cycle of hopelessness, seeing no hope for change or improvement in the future. A traumatised mind may get pulled back into flashbacks or memories of past traumatic experiences.
Yoga helps people to stay focused on the present moment. It encourages people to be aware of the way their body feels as they move through different postures, or notice the way that their breath feels as they inhale and exhale.
The mindfulness skills that are developed through yoga practice can also help with emotion regulation. People are encouraged to experience their thoughts and emotions in an open, non-judgmental and accepting way, rather than fighting to push them away.
Yoga also encourages self-reflection, compassion, and can boost confidence and self-esteem.
But I tried yoga and it didn’t make me feel better…
It is important to be aware that the types of yoga offered in many studios or online might not be appropriate for everyone.
For those experiencing anxiety, depression, or trauma symptoms, it is possible that yoga could in fact be an uncomfortable experience.
The thought of walking into a new space filled with people you don’t know could trigger anxious feelings in many people. Being asked to lie down with your eyes closed could be even more uncomfortable, particularly for people who have experienced trauma.
Fortunately, there is now ‘mental health aware yoga’ which takes the individual’s experience of mental health challenges into account. These classes are offered in a safe, respectful way and are run by yoga instructors who also having training in mental health.
There are a number of places across Perth that offer yoga classes that have been designed specifically for people experiencing symptoms of anxiety and depression, as well as trauma-sensitive yoga programs.
Body – Mind Unwind
At Lawson Clinical Psychology we are very excited to offer a brand new group program – Body-Mind Unwind – for girls in Years 10-12.
The 3 half-day program incorporates yoga, mindfulness, and psychological strategies to reduce stress and anxiety symptoms. Click here for more information on Body – Mind Unwind.
Written by Emma Burton, Clinical Psychologist
If you would like to learn more about how yoga and mindfulness can reduce stress and anxiety symptoms or to book an appointment with Emma Burton, contact our friendly client team by calling 6143 4499 or email via our contact page.
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Friday 9am – 4pm
Saturday 9am – 2:30pm
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Subiaco, Perth, 6008, WA
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