There are many, many reasons why yoga is beneficial for mind, body and soul. From reducing anxiety to easing digestive orders and even boosting heart health, it would seem we should all be taking up this ancient practice! And now, a new study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine has just marked it as all the more impressive, revealing that regular yoga also has the potential to dramatically ease depressive symptoms in people with mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder.
In the study, 1712 individuals with a variety of mental health disorders were monitored over two and a half months as they enjoyed 1-2 20 to 90-minute yoga sessions a week. The results were wonderful, offering mental stability to those suffering and according to the analysis, the more yoga sessions a person did each week, the less they struggled with depressive symptoms and the better they felt.
The fantastic thing about yoga, of course, is its holistic nature. As you work on strengthening your body through a series of poses, your whole system is impacted, including your emotional (and many would say spiritual) state. Because of this, incorporating other holistic practices into your yoga routine can help heighten the positive affects.
Whether you’re new to yoga or a seasoned pro, there are always ways you can deepen your practice. Here are a few of our favourites:
1. Take it slow
We’re often drawn to the dynamic energy burst that a vigorous Vinyasa sequence has to offer, but try switching up for a far more relaxed version from time to time to tap into those subtle energies.
Heart-pumping exercise is great, but use every other yoga session to focus on pranayama (breath extension) and pratyahara (sense-withdrawal). Hold poses for 3-5 minutes, breathing deeply and meditating throughout to allow your prana (life force) to flow freely. You may wish to light a candle and use this as your point of focus to help you turn your practice inward.
2. Add a mantra
Your time spent practicing yoga offers to perfect opportunity to get to work on your inner dialogue, and the life you create. Repeating a mantra (or a few select affirmations) throughout your routine is an excellent step towards retraining your brain to form positive neural pathways, throwing out old, negative beliefs and opening up new potential in your world. Creating the universe we want to live in all starts with creating a mind and heart that believes it to be possible.
3. Use aromatherapy
As you breathe deeply, why not make sure you’re inhaling something which can actively improve your wellbeing? Try a blend of lavender, sweet orange and clary sage for a calming effect; vetiver, rose and cedarwood for grounding or lemongrass, bergamot and rosemary for an energy boost. Or, simply spritz your mat with the new TINTURE aromatherapy mat spray.
4. Sound Bathing
Sound has been shown to have a jaw-dropping effect on the human body. If you consider how we’re made up of nearly 60% water and what happens if you place a bowl of liquid next to a speaker, it’s not so surprising really.
Japanese researcher, Mr. Masaru Emoto performed a remarkable study which showed how the molecular structure of water dramatically changed depending on the music and words he played ‘to it’, blooming into beautiful shapes and patterns when loving words were said or melodic music was played and into harsh shapes often lacking in any coherent form at all when played discordant noise or cruel words. The results of his research revealed that even polluted water was transformed using gratitude, love and appreciation, and the power of prayer or positive intent.
With this in mind, try playing a sound bathing track while you practice yoga to totally reconstruct positivity from the outside in.
Take conscious steps to ensure that your yoga practice is mindful. As you work your way through a sequence, use the time to become fully attuned to yourself. Notice how you are feeling, both physically and emotionally, and address your needs accordingly. Are you thirsty? Does your back hurt? Do you feel anxious? Or happy? Check in with every aspect of yourself and get familiar with your own body and thoughts.
6. Take yoga off the mat
Yoga isn’t all about the physical exercise, or even about the hour you spend actively ‘doing’ yoga moves. A huge part of yoga is about ethics (or ‘yamas’) and how you translate your practice into every day life. There are five yamas which make up the first limb of the Eight Limb Path also known as Ashtanga Yoga.
They are: Ahimsa (non-violence), Satya (truthfulness), Asteya (non-stealing), Brahmacharya (right use of energy), and Apraigraha (non-grasping).
Find ways to work on these yamas off the mat to experience the full benefits yoga has to give.