As many a yogi will tell you, the practice of yoga does wonders for mental health From depression and anxiety to insomnia and general body ache, yoga can calm an anxious mind and invigorate a sluggish one. While reducing the perception of stress triggers, yoga causes a physical response like reduced heart rate, lower blood pressure and easing respiration.
Psychologists often recommend moderate exercise for depression and anxiety, and yoga postures are specifically designed to promote balance, flexibility and increased physical strength. During a Bikram class, you’ll notice that your heart rate is up during postures just as it would be if you were performing other exercises. The great benefit of Bikram is that during the savasanas, your body is able to quickly calm and reach an equal state once more. Perhaps in this way, the body is training the mind to let go of rapid thoughts and speeding feelings. In settling into the savasana, we let go of whatever pain or difficulty we just had and that spills over into our mental lives.
Additionally, after doing the stretching, flexing and balancing in class, our bodies are more agile. We open up joints and release tense muscles. The physical act of breathing is brought to the front of your thoughts, and in doing all of this, we release whatever stress and tension has been following us throughout the day.
According to the Harvard Mental Health Letter,
A 2005 study examined the effects of a single yoga class for inpatients at a New Hampshire psychiatric hospital. The 113 participants included patients with bipolar disorder, major depression, and schizophrenia. After the class, average levels of tension, anxiety, depression, anger, hostility, and fatigue dropped significantly, as measured by the Profile of Mood States, a standard 65-item questionnaire that participants answered on their own before and after the class. Patients who chose to participate in additional classes experienced similar short-term positive effects.
Further controlled trials of yoga practice have demonstrated improvements in mood and quality of life for the elderly, people caring for patients with dementia, breast cancer survivors, and patients with epilepsy.
So in every class, when you are thanking yourself for showing up, for committing to the 90 minutes and for challenging yourself in each posture, know too that you are doing very good work for your own mental well-being. The benefits of Bikram yoga can be found from bones to skin, from your mind to your muscles and every single cell in between. It really is the best thing you’ll do for yourself all day.
Posted by Liz Alfano