yoga for emotional healthBy Sangeetha Saran

How can Yoga improve your emotional health? Most people who do yoga understand how daily practice can give a person a healthier, leaner, more balanced body. What people may not be aware of is the very real possibility that regular and repeated yoga sessions can greatly improve the emotional health of the practitioner. If you’ve been a yoga instructor for some time, you’ve certainly noticed your students becoming more limber and flexible. Look closely, and you will probably see positive emotional changes to their innermost beings, as well. Yogis and yoginis who begin every day with a sun salutation tend to keep that glow about them everywhere they go.

What is it about yogic discipline that does so much to improve the practitioner’s mood and emotional health? The stretches and asanas of yoga are excellent stress reducers to be sure, but it goes deeper than that. When meditative breathing techniques are incorporated into a routine, yoga achieves what no other form of exercise can. Practitioners say that regular yoga sessions reduce or even eliminate feelings of hostility and make day-to-day problems easier to manage.

Researching Yoga for Emotional Health

Traci A. Statler, Ph.D. is a sports psychology consultant. Amy Wheeler, Ph.D. is a yoga expert. They are both members of the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM). In 2007, they closely observed 84 students during a ten-week Hatha yoga class at California State University San Bernardino. Participants were tested for concentration, motivation and anxiety levels. Statler and Wheeler noted significant improvement in all three areas. From Wheeler’s report: “While westerners tend to regard yoga primarily as a physical discipline, in the East it is pursued as a mindful discipline, helping people live their lives with clarity and a positive outlook.”

Yoga requires concentration and coordination. Yoga encourages mindfulness. The inward focus of yogic practice creates a strong connection between body and mind. The slow, gentle movements and controlled, rhythmic breathing of the yogi are known to reduce both physical tension and emotional anxiety. The goal of yoga is progress, not perfection. Regular yoga sessions, whether in a class, ashram, or in solitary practice, can lead to self-acceptance and a more serene outlook on life in general. When one achieves physical balance, emotional balance is likely to ensue.

Is there one yogic form that is more beneficial to emotional health than another? Maybe not. Whether Hatha, Restorative, Vinyasa or other traditional form, yoga offers mind and body benefits to all.

Resource:

Medical News Today; Yoga Improves Concentration, Motivation – Benefits Beyond Strength And Flexibility; published June 13, 2007; accessed March 16, 2014

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