Healing mind, body and spirit through yoga
September 11, 2017
Originating in India, yoga is around 5,000 years old. According to a 2016 study by the Yoga Alliance and Yoga Journal, "… the number of U.S. yoga practitioners has increased to over 36 million, up from 20.4 million in 2012." Yoga's popularity is likely due to its proven healing value.
A few of the benefits of yoga include stress and pain relief, improved flexibility and mobility, and improved cardiovascular health.
Other benefits include increased strength as well as improved concentration, memory and coordination. U.S. and international studies show yoga is effective at decreasing symptoms of depression and anxiety while increasing brain levels of gamma-aminobutyric acid. Gamma-aminobutyric acid is a neurotransmitter responsible for calming the nervous system and regulating muscle tone.
Recommendations from these studies support yoga as a beneficial complimentary approach in treating addictions, depression and anxiety.
Several studies have shown that practicing yoga twice per week, for as little as eight weeks, can improve a person's overall well-being.
Yoga is not a religion but is known to have spiritual aspects — connecting the practitioner with their own inner strength.
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Some yoga styles do have a more spiritual focus. Images of yoga poses might be reminiscent of a Buddha or conjure thoughts of contorting into unnatural positions but there is no prerequisite of flexibility when starting yoga.
"Yoga practice is about finding some mental clarity, flexibility, emotional relief, and connection to our inner strength," according to Lisa Smart of Rising Lotus — Space to Breathe Yoga Studio.
In addition, Lisa noted students typically report immediate relief at the end of class.
A core discipline of yoga is learning to breathe correctly. The way a baby breathes before life changes things.
"Belly" breathing triggers the release of natural chemicals into the body which reduce stress, anxiety, and depressive symptoms.
Breathing properly, coordinated with specific poses and awareness of thoughts and heart during yoga, yields a whole-body experience — thus, "… Mind, Body and Spirit."
Because "belly" breathing can improve mood, it is often part of a mental health treatment plan.
Through teaching basic breathwork, I've consistently observed an immediate improvement in mood and anxiety reduction in most clients.
Yoga is an excellent avenue for learning to breathe properly as well as an evidence-based approach to improving overall quality of life.
Yoga is powerful and can bring up intense emotional responses. If you suffer from a mental health disorder such as post traumatic stress disorder, it is highly recommended you seek professional support in addition to your yoga practice.
There is a rich diversity of yoga classes in Nevada County.
Call a few studios to see what they offer and you are quite likely to find a class that suits your goals. Styles range from the vigorous "hot" yoga and Kundalini to the slower paced Restorative.
Smart further explained, "If you can breathe, you can do yoga. Flexibility or standing on your head is not required. Yoga is recommended for every body."
For information about types of yoga, research, or finding a registered teacher visit http://www.yogaalliance.org.
Consultation with your healthcare provider and/or a mental health professional is recommended before beginning a yoga practice.
Contact Bonnie McKeegan, LCSW23344 at 530-559-8406 or http://www.bonniemckeeganlcsw.net.