Yoga is good for mental health

A thousand-year-old discipline, yoga has both physical and psychological benefits. According to several studies, the practice of yoga would relieve stress and anxiety in a sustainable way.

This millennial Indian practice is open to all, except medical contraindications. It is particularly useful to the elderly, but also to children or pregnant women, who find in this sequence of postures a way to be in harmony with their body and their spirit.

Becoming a true social phenomenon, yoga is practiced by millions of Americans, and the number of practitioners would be constantly increasing.

Why such a success? No doubt because yoga brings many benefits, both physical and mental. In addition to the feeling of well-being and relaxation provided by yoga, its practice would have many therapeutic virtues.

“Clinical trials have shown that yoga improves pain by stretching muscles and aligning posture, lowers blood pressure by rebalancing the autonomic nervous system and reduces inflammation by regulating chronic stress. In recent times, yoga is increasingly perceived not only as a way to reduce stress and improve physical fitness, but also to overcome mental suffering, “says Prof. Holger Cramer, Director of Internal Medicine and Integrative Research in Medicine at the University of Duisburg-Essen.

Not only good for the body, the regular practice of yoga would develop a psychic well-being. Many studies have highlighted its benefits to our mental health.

By practicing yoga, focusing on our breathing and our sensations, we put ourselves in a situation of mindfulness meditation and thus increase our psychic strength. According to Professor Holger Cramer, yoga is particularly recommended for people suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) such as veterans, survivors of war or natural disasters, or victims of violence.

“By increasing the parasympathetic activity, yoga reduces the effects of stress: it is the relaxation response that could also directly reduce the activity of the amygdala.This seems to be the case especially with yogic breathing methods such as alternating breathing nostrils,” says the specialist.

In a meta-analysis of people with post-traumatic stress published last summer, Prof. Cramer and his colleagues showed that practicing yoga greatly reduces symptoms such as stress, sleep disturbances and muscle tension.

The practice of yoga is also recommended for people with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). The “body work” of yoga (postures, breathing, meditation “help to control the fluctuations of the mind,” says Professor Cramer, who says that it is “especially the yogic breathing techniques that are most effective to treat mental disorders. By learning to breathe better through yoga, patients find calm and serenity. It is also interesting to note that anxiety disorders are more common in patients with respiratory disorders such as asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and that respiratory rehabilitation has been an essential part of many approaches to cognitive-behavioral therapy for anxiety disorders,”he notes.

However, Professor Holger Cramer says, people with post-traumatic stress or high anxiety should not practice yoga alone. These mental disorders require psychiatric support that can not be replaced by a personal care strategy such as yoga.

Shakes Gilles

Editor of The Talking Democrat. He enjoys bike riding, kayaking and playing soccer. On a slow weekend, you'll find him with a book by the lake.