I find that lots of students come to yoga class seeking alleviation for mental health issues: most commonly, anxiety, depression, & insomnia. This is not surprising considering depression and anxiety effects roughly 1 in 5 adults. I too have struggled in the past, and now use yoga as a daily tool to maintain physical and mental health. While the research is not entirely conclusive, there is a lot to suggest that yoga and mental health are in fact connected.
A study published in the Indian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology (Vol. 48, No. 3), shows that “yoga targets unmanaged stress, a main component of chronic disorders such as anxiety, depression, obesity, diabetes and insomnia.”
It seems to do this by two main factors:
Often people experiencing emotional dysregulation feel physically immobilized or out of touch with their bodies (even perhaps having an “out of body” experience like you’re watching your own self). Instead of getting in a rat race within the mind of trying to analyze our feelings or solve a hundred problems at a time, mindfulness allows us to sit with the feeling or the sensation and simply take note of it without trying to change anything.
This practice alone tends to soothe ailments by telling the practitioner that he or she doesn’t have to try to “fix” everything. It allows the practitioner to create some space from the emotion or problem and later create a plan to tackle it with a clearer and more logical mind. Yoga and its propensity for mind-body awareness allows the individual to reconnect to the present moment. Most often you’ll find the present moment is not so bad.
Other points to note from the article in American Psychological Association:
American Psychological Association