June 9, 2023
Last Updated:
June 26, 2023

Yoga and Mental Health

From confidence to strength to mindfulness, yoga can be considered the epitome of holistic health. But coming into yoga as a beginner might feel a little intimidating.   

In the media, yogis are often portrayed as experts who have it all together – no anxiety, no stress, and no problem contorting into different shapes. But, as with most things, the portrayal vs. the actual practice are two vastly different entities.   
The truth is that yoga is an accessible practice for all walks of life, from starting stretchers to pros of the pose. Those who include yoga in their daily (or even weekly) routine often find an increase in not just physical, but emotional and mental health as well – and that’s just scratching the surface.  

If you’re looking to learn about all that yoga has to offer (beyond a basic hamstring stretch), read on. We're diving deep into the benefits of yoga for mental health, physical wellness, and emotional rejuvenation, the proper courses you can take to learn the foundations of yoga, and even coach courses to get you on the road to being a certified yogi!

How Does Yoga Benefit Mental Health?  

Yoga is so much more than purely physical practice. In fact, the concept of yoga (or Yoga Sutras of Patanjali) is actually divided into 8 separate limbs: Yamas (moral restraints), Niymas (observances), Pratyahra (the concept of turning inward), Asanas (postures), Pranayama (mindful breathing), Dharana (concentration), Dhyana (meditation), and Samadhi (the union of the self with meditation). The entire design and functionality of yoga is that all of these limbs are to be practiced in sequence.   

Notice that most of these limbs have little to do with our physical presence, and more so to do with the importance of staying mentally in-tune! As you can see, yoga is considered to be a largely spiritual, mental, and overall introspective practice that allows participants to truly get in touch with their body, mind, and soul.   

But, that doesn’t mean that yoga doesn’t also have the science to back up the benefits.   

There have been countless studies surrounding yoga for mental health, yoga therapy for physical ailments, and even yoga as an aid for certain medical issues. The latter two can be explained pretty easily – working and stretching our bodies regularly usually garners some pretty positive effects, amongst other things – but how can yoga’s effect on mental health be explained?   

Let’s break it down:   

Yoga Releases Vital Chemicals in the Brain  

Ever wonder where that happy, accomplished feeling comes from after a good yoga session? These emotions come from the release of the chemical Gamma-Aminobutryic Acid (GABA for short). Yoga specifically triggers the heightened release of this chemical by creating a relaxed, calming, physically active environment.

Regular Yoga Practice Can Ease Depression

Those with depression know how hard it can be, especially when approximately 1 in 3 people don’t report feeling any benefits from antidepressants. While there is no catch-all cure for depression, yoga (specifically Hatha Yoga) has a pretty substantial backing for being a great way to ease some symptoms.   

Countless studies show us that people of varying age groups and abilities have been able to ease their symptoms of depression by simply attending a twice-weekly yoga course!  

Yoga Can Help Soothe Stress and Anxiety  

In a similar fashion to depression (as these ailments often come as a package deal), yoga is also a great way to rid yourself of piling stress and anxiety. A study done by the NIH confirmed through PET scans that those who practiced yoga regularly saw a pretty remarkable increase in serotonin and decrease of activity in the parts of our brain triggered by stress.  

Yoga Promotes Better Sleep  

Hard to sleep when you’re stressed, right? We’ve already shown that yoga eases stress, so it makes sense that so many people – from children to the elderly – have improved their sleep patterns through regular yoga practice.  

Attending Yoga Classes Increases Social Exposure  

Finally, attending yoga classes just helps us get out into the world. Even the most introverted people need a little contact sometimes, and yoga is a calm, quiet, easy way to take part in social activities without any obligation.   
It’s a win/win/win: Less stress, less pain, more social interaction on your terms.

How to Get Started with Yoga  

Still feeling a little intimidated? No worries. For many of us, getting out and taking a yoga class can be a big step. That’s why we recommend trying our self-paced Chopra Yoga Foundations course.   

With easy to follow 30-minute yoga flows, individual instruction, downloadable resources, and exclusive bonus content, this course is the perfect way to start your journey with yoga.   

We specifically recommend this course if you...  

  • Struggle with finding an easy, accessible way to practice yoga   
  • Want a deeper understanding of yoga’s ancient foundations  
  • Seek to empower your body, breath, and mind  
  • Want to ease the stress and anxiety in your life  

If any of these points resonate with you, this course is a great solution. If you are a seasoned yogi and ready to take your practice to the next level to become a registered yoga teacher, check out our newest offering, Chopra Yoga Certification!

A holistic understanding of yoga starts with IIN!

Starting yoga to help your mental health can be scary – but it doesn’t have to be. Begin your journey towards a more nourished, refreshed self with us. 

Author Biography
Aurora Detor
IIN Content Writer

Aurora got her start as a copywriter in Shanghai, China, and has since settled back in the U.S. to continue growing in her career. With a profound interest in holistic health, she yearned to a place where she could write creatively about what she really believed in - and found IIN.

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