Yoga for Mental Health: 5 Ways Yoga Helps to Transform Your Mind

Posted October 10, 2023

Yoga for Mental Health: 5 Ways Yoga Helps to Transform Your Mind

In a fast-paced world filled with stressors, anxieties and constant demands, maintaining good mental health can be challenging. It’s estimated that 28% of Americans have a diagnosable mental health disorder and 55% of this group are not seeking treatment. It’s also estimated that half of Americans will face at least one episode of mental illness in their lives.

Yoga’s original aim when the philosophy took root thousands of years ago was to address the mind state. The yogis of old believed that if we could regularly engage in practices that help to calm the chatter of the mind, each of us could see and recognize the truth of who we are and connect to the calm, peaceful place we all have deep inside.

While yoga is not the only means for addressing mental health, for many it is a wonderful tool to develop better awareness of your mind state and also a fantastic complement to more traditional therapies.

Key ways yoga can positively impact mental health:

1. Strengthens the mind/body connection

While much of yoga in our country today is physically-based, approaching the postures from a place of mindfulness can have a powerful

effect on cultivating a more positive mental state. When you focus on the position of your body to get into a pose, all of the sudden you are no longer feeding the 60,000 thoughts (about 80% of which tend to be negative) you have every day. Instead, you are feeling your foot press down and your fingers reaching high. You are connecting to your body in the present moment and disconnecting from stressful thoughts and anxiety-inducing mental patterns.

2. Decreases stress and its effects


Chronic stress can lead to a range of mental health issues, including anxiety and depression. Through controlled breathing and mindful movements, yoga activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which counters the “fight or flight” part of our nervous system that turns on in response to stress. This downshifting of our nervous system encourages the release of tension, reduces inflammation and eases the toll stress chemicals can have on the body and mind.

A 2023 study in the Journal of Behavioral Medicine demonstrated yoga’s stress-relieving as well as brain-boosting benefits. Researchers found that the participants who practiced medium-intensity yoga for 50-minutes, three times per week, for eight weeks had significantly lower stress and anxiety as well as higher accuracy on working memory tasks as compared to a control group.

3. Improves emotional well-being

Time on your yoga mat gives you space in your life for self-reflection and emotional healing. This can be a wonderful reprieve from the

always on, constantly distracted world we seem to live in. The mindfulness and meditation aspects of yoga encourage you to be present in the moment, accepting any thoughts and feelings without judgment. This acceptance can lead to a greater sense of self-compassion and emotional resilience.

4. Helps manage anxiety and depression 

Research has shown that yoga can be an effective complementary therapy for managing anxiety and depression. Regular practice has been associated with decreased symptoms, improved mood and a greater sense of overall well-being. Yoga’s emphasis on controlled breathing techniques can be particularly helpful in reducing the physiological symptoms of anxiety. Recent research showed that just 6 deep breaths like those we use in yoga classes can lower heart rate, relax the nervous system and begin to bring about feelings of calm.

5. Builds resilience

Yoga is not about escaping from difficulties. It instead cultivates inner qualities like patience, acceptance and perseverance and gives you additional tools to help you approach life’s challenges with greater strength and resilience.

We often say in classes that just because you start yoga doesn’t mean your life gets any easier. We will all have challenges, obstacles and losses on our journey. When you do practice yoga, though, life can start to feel easier. The things that used to really bug you and stress you out all of sudden seem to have less of a negative effect on you. The calmer and clearer mind you’ve built and that inner and outer strength you’ve gained has you feeling better equipped to handle adversity and bounce back from setbacks.

If you find yourself not quite in that optimal place mentally, first recognize that you are certainly not alone. Second, know there are many valuable tools, techniques and therapies out there that can help you. Yoga is one great way to help you make positive strides in your mental health and we encourage you to give it a try.

If you are local to Columbus, our studios are a welcoming and judgment free place that’s great for beginners. Our New Client Offer of 3 weeks of unlimited classes for only $39 is a wonderful way to try out a handful of classes to help you find those that suit your schedule, goals and needs. We look forward to meeting you!

If you aren’t local to Columbus, we’ve got a handful of online classes and meditations you can enjoy for free on YouTube!