Yoga probably isn’t the first thing people think of when they need help improving their mental health, but a yoga therapy program offers several mental benefits. You won’t have to be incredibly fit and flexible to participate in yoga. There are styles, poses, and adaptive devices that make yoga accessible to everyone—even chair yoga for those who struggle with mobility.
Call Illumination Mental Health at 747.285.7504 for more information about how we incorporate yoga therapy into our mental health treatment programs in Los Angeles, CA.
Mental Health Benefits of Yoga Therapy Programs
Taking even one focused deep breath helps to relieve stress. Yoga involves more than putting your body into pretzel-like positions. Yoga emphasizes breathing exercises and meditation, both of which help to center and calm the mind.
All types of exercise lower stress hormones and increase the production of endorphins. However, yoga goes even further to improve mood. Studies have shown that yoga also elevates gamma-aminobutyric (GABA), a brain chemical associated with decreased anxiety and better moods.
Improved Stress Response
The meditation practiced during a session of yoga therapy slows down activity within the limbic system, which is the part of the brain that controls emotional reactions. When the limbic system is calm, it becomes easier to handle stressful situations.
While many non-medical interventions can help decrease anxiety, stress management therapy, relaxation exercises, massage, and listening to music and yoga were found to be the most beneficial, according to a review of studies by the Aging and Mental Health Journal. Yoga provides long-lasting relief from depression and anxiety among older adults.
Relief from PTSD Symptoms
Several studies have concluded that yoga is beneficial for reducing PTSD symptoms when used in addition to traditional therapies.
Participation in a yoga therapy program can help reduce emotional arousal and the frequency of intrusive memories. The deep, slow breathing practiced during yoga helps activate the parasympathetic nervous system and create a lasting sense of calm.
Increased Brain Activity
Practicing yoga helps create new brain cells and new connections within the brain. These changes in brain structure improve learning, memory, and other cognitive skills.
Yoga also strengthens the parts of the brain involved with attention, memory, thinking, and language. It’s typical for these areas of the brain to shrink in older people, but older practitioners of yoga show less brain shrinkage than their peers who do not do yoga.
Yoga helps reduce anger and increase the ability to control it, especially among adolescents and teens. Participating in regular yoga has also been shown to decrease verbal aggression among adults.
How Do Yoga Therapy Classes in Los Angeles, CA Work?
The benefits of yoga can be credited to its effect on heart rate variability, also known as HRV. An increase in HRV calms the body’s autonomic nervous system, which is where trauma is stored.
An increased HRV means a longer distance between heartbeats. Fewer heartbeats per minute translate to slower, deeper breathing and an overall sensation of calm.
The physical benefits of yoga are widely known. They include:
- Increased strength
- Improved flexibility
- Better balance
- Improved muscle tone
- Improved joint health
- Less back pain
Coping with the effects of mental health disorders and the side effects of medications can take a toll on social interaction and relationships. Participation in a yoga therapy program in Los Angeles, CA, can help to increase confidence and self-esteem.
Even beginners can see quick improvement in their strength, balance, and flexibility, in addition to emotional benefits. Yoga classes also provide a social outlet for meeting others who can relate to your experiences.