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Improving Mental Health through Yoga is not a By-product

This post looks at how a yoga practice can help your mental health

Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras tell us “Yoga is the ending of disturbances of the mind.”

I turned to yoga for my own mental health, for me the physical strength and flexibility are the actual by-products. The reason why I became a yoga teacher is to focus on the wellbeing aspects of the practice - to open the wonders and benefits to yoga to as many people who have an open mind to try and experience it for themselves.

So what mental benefits can you experience from yoga

Through a yoga practice, class, you can experience many different states and a whole heap of mental health benefits. Here are a just a few of the effects: * The flow and the connection of movement brings with it many mood boosting effects and the achievement of seeing and feeling the strength grow in both body and mind grows a confidence in oneself both on and off the mat. There is nothing better

for a boost to the mind. *The unique connection with your body, that mind body connection which is rare to find and the feeling of focus and mental clarity where you feel completely present in the moment is pure tonic for the mind *That rare invitation to listen to our body and to rest and relax such as in a restorative class. Everyone needs to take a pause and so few of us do. Make yourself take a proper rest , join a restorative class - the experience that you draw from it is pure joy for you and your mind. It can only be described as being in-tune, in-tune with the rhythms of your body, the flow of the breathe and a letting go of that self critic, a softness around your thoughts. The Breath The Connection with your breath can be life changing and no I am not being dramatic.

In yoga, the breath is the anchor we use to unite the mind with the body. Rather than allowing our mind to drift, as we might do whilst on a bike ride or in the gym, in yoga, we keep bringing our focus back to the breath. Good old mindfulness. By connecting to the breath and the movements of the breath, we are of course also connecting with the body. Breathing techniques are widely accepted to have positive effects on mental health. Deep breathing can really help you and so when you start to feel that anxiety, worry, stress building, stop, connect and breathe.

Here is one to try: Calming Breath

  1. Take a long, slow breath in through your nose, first filling your lower lungs, then your upper lungs.

  2. Hold your breath to the count of "three."

  3. Exhale slowly through pursed lips, while you relax the muscles in your face, jaw, shoulders, and stomach.

Delving deeper Yoga is (if you want it to be )far more than movement and breath. There is a deep philosophy, a blue print underpinning and explaining how we can live in a way which is more peaceful and with more contentment ( santosha) I understand that these ideas are not for everyone and so this is a just a snippet but if this is an area that interests you, look up the niyamas, concepts that are there for nurturing a healthy mind and a healthy outlook on life. When I read them they make so much sense and to me bring that aha moment. Leave perfection out of Yoga in your daily home practice particularly in times like now or when you are feeling stressed

A daily yoga practice is not about the perfect space, perfect ambiance , perfect yoga leggings it is about carving 5-10 minutes out for yourself daily to pause, to breathe, to feel your body , so try this. Breathe and connect when you make a cup of tea, when you are putting toys back in the toybox, when you have popped the family to bed, when you are waiting for a phone call. Just a few minutes can make a big difference to you and those around you. Feeling non yogi is and should not be an issue.

You do not need to be all calm, and relaxed for your practice. Let the yoga meet you and do its magic. At the moment there are many occasions where my mind is racing, I may have had words with hubby before, feeling rubbish, unhappy with the state of the house but the yoga meets me and then after I feel so different, a messy house doesn't matter, what we fell out about was trivial. The yoga has done its magic. My final musing is refill your own cup first.

We are such martyrs in so many ways feeding, looking after others and leaving ourselves to last. Where does that come from? It is not selfish, rid yourself of that word, it is essential care and wellbeing for yourself. You are no good to anyone if you are weak, tired, falling apart. By prioritising your own wellbeing you can then look after others from a better and more healthy place. Give it a try.

You are perhaps now beginning to see what yoga can do for you, note at this point. Move away from comparison, I am a yogi of 20 + years who cannot do a handstand and that is ok with me. Ignore the instagram yogis, what they are doing to their bodies is extreme , not healthy and not yoga. Move yourself away from these images and back to this, you on your mat connected with your body and breath in that completely present moment - this is yoga. If you would like to know more or would like to try yoga for yourself get in touch

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