How Yoga Can Help Your Mental Health
Mental illness is a touchy subject. It lurks just under the surface of many people’s family history. Thankfully, more people are becoming increasingly receptive to the struggles of each other and many are working to end the stigma around mental illness.
It’s been proven that yoga can help with so many health issues, and mental illness is no exception. Yoga can help bring calm to the chaos on the days when it’s hard to feel good. Breath is essential to our life force and yoga helps us become aware just how powerful and healing our breath can be. Having a yoga practice not only helps with self discovery, but teaches us how to quiet the fluctuations of the mind and shine some light on the darkest corners of our body.
Yoga, often defined as a union between the mind, body and spirit, is not only a physical practice, but a mental one as well. It’s an opportunity to seek honesty and authenticity. Personally, when I’m on my mat, I physically take my body somewhere and mentally allow myself to let go of the distractions and self judgment. When I meet myself on the mat, it’s almost as if I’m a stranger and I am introducing myself to my body. I’m able to slow down, and pay attention to how I’m feeling. My mat is where I can work on practicing self acceptance and it helps me to navigate through those inevitable curve balls that life throws my way. I’ll be honest, it’s work and it takes practice, practice and more practice! It’s not easy and can get emotional, especially in hip openers (think pigeon pose). Sometimes there are tears, other times anger and you find yourself wondering where the heck these feelings came from!
When we get caught off-guard, we try to rescue ourselves by getting out of the discomfort of our feelings. My advice is to use your yoga practice as a tool to learn how to give yourself space, breathe and to find comfort in the discomfort. It’s when we work through the process rather than against it that transformation happens. Don't expect miracles; stay open to the discovery process.
To recap, yoga gives you the opportunity to:
Learn to be still, and strong, both mentally and physically
find clarity, yet still not have all of the answers
learn how to sit with discomfort instead of fighting it
Yoga is accepting and forgiving when we let the process happen and show up - even if you rest in Balasana/Child’s Pose the whole time.
When you open your mind and let authenticity in, it’s amazing how your mindset can be positively affected and this is good for your mental health! The chaos of your emotions can settle, at least for a little while.
*Disclaimer: These thoughts, opinions and comments are strictly personal and taken from my own experiences. Yoga is different for everyone. Let it be said that 20 years ago, I would not have been able to connect these thoughts to my practice, but I sure am grateful that I am today.*