In the 21 st century, the problems that are prevalent among people are entirely different from those of the ancient yogis who came up with the methodology of Yoga. But yoga can help us deal with our issues as well as it did for them.
Yoga was developed to prepare the body for vigorous spiritual practices and long hours of meditation, and then stilling the mind to achieve higher states of consciousness. While we may not have the same goals, we do have problems related to mental health growing rapidly in the modern society because of increasingly demanding work lives, highly addictive technology, information overload through the internet and social media which is making people feel more lonely instead of connecting them.
Countless scientific researches and people who have experienced benefits from yoga have proven that even few minutes of daily meditation will lead to significant improvement in your mental health. In this article we will discuss in detail about the ways in which yoga improves mental health and what you can do to get started (if you haven’t already).
Healthy Body, Healthy Mind
Physical health and mental health are closely interrelated. Poor physical health can negatively impact mental health. Similarly, poor mental health can also lead to increased risk of physical health problems.
If you practice Yoga Asanas (postures) on a daily basis, it will surely lead to enhanced physical fitness. And you must have heard the age old adage “Healthy Body, Healthy Mind”. When you become physically healthy by practicing Asanas it automatically improves your mood throughout the day, keeps you energetic and helps to relieve any ailment that might be making you miserable.
But along with yoga, proper diet and sleep are also very important. In the seventeenth verse of the sixth chapter The Bhagvad Gita which is considered the ultimate scripture of yoga, it is said:
“He who is measured in food and movement, measured in efforts towards action, measured in sleep and awakening. For him Yoga destroys unhappiness.”
Root Causes of Psychological Discomfort
Many people think yoga and meditation is all about physical postures and flexibility. But that is misinformation. The physical postures called Asanas are only one of the eight aspects of Ashtanga Yoga as we have discussed in previous articles.
The rest of the steps of Yoga are concerned with your inner world and consciousness, the practice of which will lead to the attainment of psychological well being, inner peace and self- control, such as Pratyahara (withdrawing from distractions), Dharna (concentration) and Dhyana (meditation).
The root cause of anxiety, depression and other forms pf psychological discomfort is our inability to focus on the present moment and constantly worry about the future or regret over the past. Dhyana or meditation is method by which we bring back our minds to the present moment, which is a very liberating experience.
Effects of Meditation on the Mind
People might object that mindfulness and meditation are merely ways of escaping from your problems but that is not correct as Meditation is about observing your own mind and how your mind create psychological suffering instead of distracting yourself from it.
Compulsively thinking about your problems isn't going solve your problems, only action will. Meditation can help you overcome your habit of constant rumination when you are not taking any action, which creates psychological discomfort.
How to Meditate for Beginners
STEP 1: Sit in a comfortable posture, it can be on a chair or cushion, and close your eyes. You can keep your hands on your lap.
STEP 2: Breathe naturally and observe inhalation and exhalation,
STEP 3: You’ll constantly be distracted by your thoughts, simply bring back your attention to your breath every time you're distracted.
Our expert teacher Nayana has given her tips on how to practice meditation on this post.
Pranayam for Mental Health
Pranayama or Breathing Exercises are another important part of yoga which are tremendously beneficial for both physical and mental health. Whenever you feel anxious, deep breathing will instantly calm your mind. We’ve already written a Beginner’s Guide to Pranayama on this blog which will help you to learn the three basic Pranayamas.