In light of the recent Coronavirus pandemic, mental health has been at the forefront of many discussions. Staying indoors and living in a continual state of anxiety has had a significant impact on individuals around the world who perhaps did not suffer from pre-existing mental health issues. Throughout this series, we will explore various methods that can be used to help manage mental health during these testing times and evaluate how they actually facilitate in relieving strains on the mind – starting with Yoga.
Yoga is derived from the Sanskrit word ‘yuji’ meaning union – representing how it combines the body and mind. It has been an effective form of therapy for over 5000 years and was developed by the Indus-Sarasvati civilisation in Northern India, who drew from the instructions proscribed in old sacred texts like the Rig Veda. The practice was refined and enhanced throughout the years by native mystic seers who further polished the ritual and further documented these additions in influential scriptures. Yoga in the present day is now a widely renowned and practised activity. It has undergone increasing gentrification and has been popularised throughout the world as a form of exercise as opposed to a spiritual release. The number of over 50s practising Yoga has tripled over the last four years whilst American’s on average spend $16billion on Yoga classes, clothing and equipment every year.
As a tool to manage mental health, Yoga has distinct physiological effects that link to the subconscious. As reported by the American Psychological Association, Yoga has been shown to enhance social wellbeing through enhancing a sense of belonging and actualisation – two feelings that stimulate the limbic system in the brain and reduce symptoms of depression. It can further be used to improve conditions such as hyperactivity, attention deficit, sleeping disorders and even schizophrenia. It additionally increases levels of gamma-aminobutyric acid or GABA, a chemical that regulates nerve activity, facilitating people with anxiety disorders and those who suffer from sensory overloads. As well as mental health Yoga, has distinct benefits on physical health through reducing inflammation, chronic pain and heart health.
Overall, this ancient practice can be seen to have a distinct indirect impact on mental well-being and has been proven to concomitantly rejuvenate the mind and body.