Yoga & Mental Health
Julie Caramanico, MS, RYT, RCYT
Research about the healing benefits of yoga is growing. Many people are turning to yoga as an emotional release and to improve their mental health. How come? We know that our emotions can be felt as physical sensations in the body.
Stress can be identified by a quickened heartbeat or muscle tightness in the upper back and shoulders. Depression or sadness can be described as a physical heaviness. Feeling these feelings can be downright uncomfortable.
Oftentimes we try to avoid pain and experience something -- anything -- better. However, emotions are part of the life experience. Talking through our emotional pain in therapy is incredibly valuable and necessary, but yoga allows us to tap into the embodied nature of our emotions.
In yoga, we repeat the same challenging postures over and over again. We get to know how our bodies, minds, and -- yes -- our emotions will be activated by certain poses. What's more, we learn how to accompany those postures, and any feelings that arise, with full and deep breaths. Then, when you encounter a challenging situation or emotion in your everyday life, you’ve practiced breathing through it.
You may be able to access your breath in a way that you may not have been able to before. For this reason, yoga is a great complement to the therapeutic process and wonderful tool for self-reflection.
Interested in getting more out of your yoga practice? Try journaling after your next class! Write about your experience and how you felt during the practice. Think of one challenging moment or pose and write about how you got through it.
Julie Caramanico is a certified yoga instructor for adults and children with a masters degree in health psychology. She teaches vinyasa yoga to adults and kids yoga for children with special needs. Find out more at www.yogawithjc.com. Please comment below with any comments or questions.