SEPTEMBER IS YOGA AWARENESS MONTH: Mental Health Benefits of Yoga

yoga awarenessSeptember is Yoga Awareness Month and there is no better time to discuss the mental health benefits of a regular yoga practice.

Yoga is nothing new, literally. According to historians, yoga techniques can be traced back more than 5,000 years. Yoga first arrived in the U.S., in Chicago to be precise, in 1893. It has been around for quite a while, so the relatively recent explosion in popularity among Westerners is not a huge surprise.  With such a long history of bringing benefits to those who practice, it is also not a surprise that modern scientists are uncovering empirical evidence to support the anecdotal information people have been sharing for decades, yoga really is good for you.

The American Psychological Association has recognized the positive impacts of a yoga practice on mental health, employing it as a practice tool in psychotherapy. The reason that yoga is gaining so much ground with behavioral healthcare professionals, are the myriad non-physical benefits of the practice. For example, a 2013 review of over 100 trials, conducted by researchers from Duke University, found evidence that when used with drug therapy, yoga is beneficial to those with schizophrenia. In addition, studies concluded that yoga provides benefit to individuals suffering from depression, ADHD, and sleep disorders. In several studies, yoga’s positive effect on those suffering from mild clinical depression was demonstrated. Another study explained why consistently practicing yoga leads to lower levels of depression; by decreasing levels of the enzyme that break neurotransmitters down and increasing levels of serotonin, the neurotransmitters that influencing brain cells that relate to mood as well as many other critical functions, overall mood is improved. Studies have also shown that a yoga practice can improve sleep, with people who practice having better, longer nights of sleep.

Yoga and meditation go hand-in-hand, so the finding of Richard Davidson, Ph.D., of University of Wisconsin-Madison suggesting that greater levels of happiness have been correlated with heightened activity in the left prefrontal cortex and increased activation has been found in those who meditate daily, also suggests another benefit of yoga.

Another, less tangible benefit that is frequently reported by people who maintain a habitual yoga practice, is a feeling of calm. Yoga involves intense focus on the body, which tends to result in mental calmness. The meditation piece of yoga involves focusing on breath and this means not focusing on the ever-changing stream of mental chatter most of us experience.  The concentration required to practice yoga also provides respite from the stressors of daily life, this leads to overall reduced levels of stress.

Finally, the increased strength, flexibility, and balance gained from a regular yoga practice increases confidence and comfort in one’s own body. In short, yoga is good for you and you feel it! If all of this sounds good to you, and you’d like to try yoga, get out into your community! Many local yoga studios are offering one free week of yoga in honor of Yoga awareness month.

About Behavioral Health Professionals, Inc.: Established in 2002 and headquartered in Detroit, Michigan, BHPI is a Managed Behavioral Health Organization offering behavioral health services through a fully integrated network of world class healthcare providers.  Our emphasis is on adding value for our customers by offering expert behavioral care management, medical coordination, and behavioral disease and chronic behavioral condition management.  BHPI offers collaborative solutions by building strong partnerships with HMOs, Health Systems, Insurance Companies, and Employer groups.  For more information visit: BHPI.org

References:
https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/get-hardy/201305/take-stand-yoga-today
http://www.apa.org/monitor/2009/11/yoga.aspx
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/15/yoga-mental-health-sleep-depression-adhd-schizophrenia_n_2434143.html
http://www.yogajournal.com/article/health/count-yoga-38-ways-yoga-keeps-fit/
http://www.yogabasics.com/learn/history-of-yoga/
http://www.mensfitness.com/training/new-study-yoga-improves-your-mental-health
http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/yoga/art-20044733