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  • Writer's pictureSarah Simone

National Yoga Month: How Yoga Benefits Your Mental Health

September is National Yoga Month

Even though Yoga has been around for centuries, National Yoga Awareness Month has only been observed since September of 2008. It began in order to promote healthier lifestyles and alternative health options in the US.

If you’ve ever told someone you’re feeling down, you may have heard a response like, “Have you tried yoga?” While it is not a “fix-all” by any means, it is a great tool to add to your mental health toolbox. It is a wonderful compliment to any mental health journey, working beautifully alongside therapy, medication, and other tools. Even those who are new to yoga can take part, as it is an ongoing learning experience that is lovingly referred to as a practice.

According to Harvard Health1, yoga creates new brain cell connections that strengthen your mind in areas of memory, learning, and information processing. They refer to it as “weightlifting for the mind.”

We know that all exercise is good for the mind and increases endorphins, which are our feel good hormones, but yoga takes it a step further. Practicing yoga helps to increase a chemical in our brains called GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid). This chemical helps with lowering anxiety and elevating our mood.

Another beneficial aspect of yoga is breathwork. In a type of yoga called vinyasa, your movement is guided by your inhales and exhales. The focused and deep breaths are helpful in activating our parasympathetic nervous system. This is the system associated with our rest and digest activity in our bodies. When this is activated, our bodies can relax, heal, digest, and take us out of a fight-or-flight state.

Yoga is so much more than the asana (movement) as described in the original text from Patanjali’s “Yoga Sutras” which is seen as the authority on yoga. Its use of meditation, sound healing, and many other aspects create a holistic approach to healing. It is meant to give you a sense of autonomy in your healing journey as discussed in the National Library of Medicine2. “Yoga engages the student in the healing process; by playing an active role in their journey toward health, the healing comes from within, instead of from an outside source and a greater sense of autonomy is achieved.”

The best part of a yoga practice is that it is all your own. Whether you join a community class, watch a YouTube practice at home, or attend a studio, the time is yours to gain what your mind, body, and soul need.

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