Friday, February 24, 2012

Yoga & Treating Mental Illness

Hello, Happy Weekend! You always hear how good Yoga is for your body and mind. This article by Emily Battaglia shares further detail of how the benefits of practicing Yoga can help treat people who suffer from a Mental Illness or disorder. If you or someone you know needs something else to help with any of the mentioned mental health issues this might just do the trick. It certainly can't hurt to try! And remember if you can't afford classes or don't want to go out to a class, you could always try it at home on DVD. I think I'm going to give it a try myself. I have always wanted to do Yoga and reading this article gives me even more incentive now.
Thanks for visiting,
Janet :)


Recent research has shown that practicing yoga can help to alleviate the symptoms of some serious mental illnesses, including depression disorder, bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and panic disorder. Special breathing and meditation techniques in particular have provided relief to individuals who regularly suffer from severe mood swings, physical aches and pains, compulsive thoughts or behaviors, and panic attacks because of these mental disorders. In addition, yoga provides fragile individuals with a gentle way to exercise, which has also been linked to positive progress in treating mental disorders.

Yoga is a Sanskrit word which literally means “union”. Practitioners of yoga strive for the peaceful union of mind, body, and spirit. The practice of physical poses, called asana, represents only a part of yoga. Breathing exercises (called pranayama), and meditation exercises (dhyana) are also components of yoga. Commonly, all of these practices are referred to simply as yoga. Students of yoga are encouraged to approach each pose with an open heart and mind, to keep their minds quiet during practice, and to balance effort with reverence for their bodies. Although yoga requires effort and determination, students are never asked to push themselves past their physical limitations, or to experience strain or physical pain. The goal of practice is to slowly work toward holding each pose with strength and grace; this endeavor creates feelings of confidence, stability, calm, and vitality.

Yogic breathing and meditation methods have been particularly effective at alleviating symptoms of mental illness. Many individuals who suffer from severe mental illness are fearful of their own emotions. Experts believe that meditation, in a structured context like a yoga class, provides mentally ill individuals with a safe place to confront negative emotions; meditation also teaches self-awareness balanced with stillness of mind, which can help individuals effectively deconstruct negative thought processes and behaviors. Breathing techniques teach stillness of mind, and an ability to exist peacefully in the present moment. For example, one simple breathing technique involves breathing in to the count of four, and breathing out to the count of eight. This simple exercise brings almost immediate calm and focus. These techniques can divert individuals from anxious or compulsive thoughts and feelings (which are often attached to the past and the future), as well as physical symptoms of panic, and help them to avoid full-blown panic attacks and severe mood swings. In addition, yoga helps to create new, positive thought processes, as individuals regularly accomplish small goals and begin to see progress in their practice.

Yoga also promotes a healthy connection with the physical self. Individuals suffering from mental illness often experience alienation from their own bodies. Symptoms of mental illness can be terrifying and exhausting, leading many sufferers to feel betrayed or held prisoner by their bodies. Each yogic pose offers a way to reconnect positively with the body. Each pose is a way to self-exploration, both mental and physical. In addition, yoga offers gentle exercise for individuals who may be too fragile, either mentally or physically, to participate in more outgoing activities. Yoga is low-impact, and easily adapted to almost any level of fitness; practice enhances flexibility and coordination, and increases strength and muscle tone. Regular exercise has been shown to have a significant impact on mental health, especially when combined with more traditional methods such as medication and cognitive behavioral therapy. Yoga has also been shown to be most effective in combination with traditional methods.

A 2007 study by Boston University and McLean Hospital may have pinpointed one medical reason for yoga’s success in treating mental illness. Many major mental illnesses (including depressive disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and anxiety disorder) are linked to low levels of brain gamma-aminobutyric (GABA), which is the brain’s primary inhibitory neurotransmitter. The main function of GABA is to inhibit the firing of neurons in the brain and thereby aid an individual’s ability to calm down, relax, and sleep. The study found that practicing yoga can increase brain GABA levels, helping to alleviate symptoms of anxiety, panic, obsession, and depression.

By Emily Battaglia


  1. I love yoga...just thought I would throw that in there. :)

  2. Thank you Pink, it is always good to hear from you :)