At the beginning of the year, I decided I wanted to try something new with my workout routine and I joined a yoga studio. Yoga has always seemed a little weird and too slow for my slightly ADHD tendencies. To my surprise, I really enjoy it. My studio offers tons of different types of yoga classes and I have been able to experiment with most to find what suits my lifestyle best. I’ve fallen in love with a hot power yoga class. The heat helps me detox and sweat; the power helps me to lean into the uncomfortable poses and become more confident that I can survive them (even when I’m holding a block and saying unfortunate words towards my instructor in my head). Yoga has become a new favorite self-care activity for me.
Studies have proven that this type of exercise can be beneficial for strengthening both your mind and body. Not that I am a researcher by any means (although, I have taken a few classes back in my college days), I have seen the benefits of discovering new exercises and integrating them into part of your life. Today, my focus is yoga. These are a few of the advantages I’ve found from doing yoga regularly.
Yoga helps you calm your body.
Throughout each class, you are encouraged to focus on your breath. By focusing on deep breathing for an extended period, your body begins to learn how to calm itself. Often, stress becomes so apparent in life that our bodies tend to go into their “fight or flight” state more often than they should. Deep breathing helps bring your body back into a calm rhythm, lowering your heart rate and blood pressure. Yoga classes help you learn through the guidance of an instructor and how to control your breath so you can begin to do it on your own outside of the classroom.
Yoga boosts your confidence and sense of self.
As you begin to practice more often, you also begin to learn more advanced poses. Stretching yourself (sometimes literally) to begin mastering these poses increases your confidence and self-efficacy. You learn how to trust your body and decisions more easily, ultimately redefining your own limitations. There was a study done back in March 2005 titled “The Impact of Yoga on the Professional and Personal Life of a Psychotherapist” that discovered yoga can be a vital asset to understanding and improving your emotional stability. The research states:
“Whether by helping manage depressive episodes, family of origin issues, or the inevitable emotional fluctuations in life… yoga fosters as a critical factor in healthy functioning. It was noted that simply visualizing one’s self in certain yoga postures during challenging moments… can help to facilitate the emotional stability necessary to be effective [in life]” (Valente & Marotta, p10).
Increases GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) in the brain.
GABA is a neurotransmitter in the brain that helps regulate nerve transmissions. Often, when there isn’t enough GABA flowing, people can become more anxious or show signs of depression. Basically, there is nothing there to block nervous tendencies. The cells fire too often and panic attacks, headaches, cognitive impairments, and mood disorders can occur. While all of that can sound a little scary, have no fear! Yoga is here! Various studies have tested GABA levels before and after a class and have shown positive increases in the participants levels afterwards. Practicing specific types of postures can activate different parts of the brain, increasing production of GABA, sometimes up to 27%. If that doesn’t make you want to flow through some sun salutations a few times, then I don’t know what will!
Yoga isn’t everyone’s idea of a great time. I get it. However, if you are suffering from anxiety or depression, maybe give it a try. I fully believe in a holistic therapy – keeping the mind, body, and soul healthy. Yoga, partnered with weekly counseling sessions, can help you increase the positive aspects of a healthy lifestyle. We at Amy Wine Counseling Center can help with understanding the mental health side of your healing. Give us a call or email us today!