5 ways yoga can improve your mental health
The mind can take you from heaven to hell in a heartbeat. Most people think of yoga as a Indian workout for a beautiful bendy body but it’s actually ancient physical spiritual practice for peace of mind. Here are five simple practical suggestions on how you could use yoga to improve your mental health.
1: The Breath, in yoga we call it pranayama which means breath control. You can use your breath, which is free and available to you anytime to control your mind. Think of the breath like putting the reigns on a wild horse. Anything over 8 breaths a minute is a sign of stress. Every mental state has it’s own breath pattern, panicy and anxious you’ll be breathing fast and shallow, depressed you’ll be shallow and unrhythmically. When you direct your breath, pull it in deep slow and smooth and breathe out again in the same manner it is instantly calming. Keep it up for 3 – 5 minutes and you be feeling much more relaxed and clear headed.
2: Meditation Our minds are stuffed full with masses of information. People always say oh I couldn’t possibly meditate because my mind is so busy, what their really saying is my mind is full up. Medtiation is the mental version of a spring clean, a declutter of useless, irrelevant, unhelpful thoughts. Using meditation we experience we are not our minds and we are able to actually control what and how we think about things. When you develop a meditation practice the mind becomes a much less scary place and it gives us great authority about how we react to life events big and small.
3: Mantra means mind wave, and for the more self conscious there are many ways you can use mantra that doesn’t involve chanting foreign words out loud. My lazy / busy persons guide to yoga involves listening to beautiful uplifting mantra music, it instantly brings positive energy into your environment. I made a playlist here. You could also use silent affirmations, when I was felt my most maddest during lockdown I went around the supermarket chanting, it’s ok, I’m ok over and over in my head to drown out the more unhelpful thoughts rumbling away in the background.
4: Movement See how low down the list what most people think yoga is. Some simple stretches, help relive physical tension, and soothe aches and pains that bug us either consciously or unconsciously. Your yoga routine doesn’t need to be complicated or take hours. A simple 10 minute sequence of yoga stretches works wonders. I have several my you tube channel. It doesn’t have to be stretches, shaking the body is particularly brilliant, fun and useful if traumatic events trigger mental health issues. Put some lively drumming music on, and shake for ten minutes, here’s a track I particularly like, you’ll feel good as new.
5. Food Do you eat for comfort or vitality? The yogis knew all about food combining and fasting. The great thing about yoga is it helps with poor impulse control and decision making. If you’re fuelled by sugar your hormones, mood and energy levels are going to be all over the place. Ditto if the food you’re eating is causing you digestive discomfort or you feel constantly tired or foggy minded, a little yoga practice will give you the energy to help you make better decisions about what you eat and when.
The feel good buzz of yoga becomes quite addictive as we feel so much better in ourselves than we did from simply using our body in a different way. Mind and body are so closely interlinked. Move one and you’ll affect the other.