Yoga incorporates meditation and mindfulness into your fitness routine, improving the health of your body and mind simultaneously. Practicing yoga can alleviate anxiety, depression, and alter your response to high-stress situations. Yoga is an effective way to improve your overall health while promoting mental wellness.

Throughout most of her adult life, Jolene Cherry has utilized yoga training as the foundation of both her personal and working life. As a yoga instructor based out of Oregon, she’s witnessed first-hand the positive impact that yoga practice has played on improving her clients’ day-to-day life and well-being.

Below, Jolene Cherry highlights just a few of the positive side effects yoga creates for mental wellness.

Stress Reduction

Stress and anxiety can be controlled by implementing yoga into your daily routine. Low levels of GABA, a chemical related to depression and anxiety, can make it difficult to slow thoughts and remain calm. Yoga increases GABA levels, effectively improving mood and the body’s ability to regulate stress and nervous feelings. Yoga has been shown to be more effective in increasing GABA than other forms of exercise.

Challenge Fight-or-Flight Response

Yoga shows a correlation with calming the nervous system by teaching you to maintain control and thoughtfully evaluate stress. The nervous system controls your fight-or-flight response or your body’s natural reaction to situations of extreme stress. Many people have difficulty exiting this response and feel tense or wired around the clock. Practicing yoga requires intense focus as you hold poses, change positions, and breath deeply. Steady, deep breaths are key to entering the rest-and-digest mode. Yoga also encourages you to gain a deeper understanding of your thoughts and emotions through meditation. Exercise, deep breathing, and meditation are all treatments to alleviate a tendency to resort to a fight-or-flight stress response frequently.

Mindfulness and Meditation

Many yoga practices incorporate mindfulness and meditation into their routines. Mindfulness is the process of appreciating and being fully aware of any present moment. Taking a break from stressful thoughts and responsibilities allows you to decompress and appreciate life. As you advance, you will be able to increase your mood by practicing mindfulness throughout the day. Meditation draws your attention inward within your emotions and thoughts. Becoming more aware of your inner self is the first step to improvement. You will gain the ability to evaluate and understand negative thoughts without spiraling or becoming anxious. Meditation and mindfulness often lead to a more peaceful mental outlook.

Learning to Appreciate Yourself

Yoga can also increase your self-confidence by teaching you to appreciate the journey. Slow, steady movements allow you to take notice of everything that goes into accomplishing a task. Small improvements and sticking to a yoga routine will boost your confidence and display that you are capable of progress.

Improve Sleep Patterns

Insomnia can result in fatigue, irritability, and decreased mental health. People who practice yoga have a stronger ability to fall asleep quickly and stay asleep throughout the night. Getting a full night’s sleep will make your body and mind feel better. If you have trouble falling asleep, engaging in a relaxing yoga routine before bed can help your body prepare for sleep.

Yoga doesn’t only improve your fitness and bodily health. Incorporating yoga into your daily routine can result in drastic improvements to your mental health and happiness. Yoga decreases anxiety and teaches your body how to engage the rest-and-digest mode to deal with stress. Most yoga routines involve practicing meditation and mindfulness, so you learn to appreciate the small moments in life and become comfortable with your inner thoughts. Improving your sleep patterns and boosting your confidence will also improve your mood and mental wellness.

About Jolene Cherry:

Jolene Cherry is a certified and experienced yoga instructor and personal trainer based in Portland, Oregon. She believes that striking a balance in life is the key to wellbeing, and aims to help her clients reach that balance through physical activity, mindfulness, and healthy nutrition. As an avid traveler, she’s received yoga training around the globe and excels in a variety of yoga styles, especially Vinyasa Yoga, traditional Ashtanga Yoga, Power Yoga, as well as meditation-oriented Yin Yoga.