We live in a world that is full of mental pressure, stress, overthinking, emotional instability, unhealthy competition and to top it all off, we have arrived in one of the worst times of human existence, the COVID-19 pandemic. All these factors are enough to drive us crazy and trust me, being locked down in our homes with no proper schedule is driving everyone even crazier. Therefore, it’s high time, you start focusing on the inside rather than outside, and the best way to start is by doing some yoga!
What is Yoga, for real?
Yoga is not just about stretching your body to make it flexible and slim. It is a lot more! And when I say this statement, I am trying to draw your attention towards the fact that yoga is a very broad term that includes synchronization of your mind, body and inner self with the outer energy or the environment.
According to Yogic culture, yoga was designed to prepare the body for diving into the depth of meditation so moving into a higher spiritual level does not end up becoming a painful process.
All forms of yoga are about creating a body that is not a hurdle in your life so that it becomes a stepping stone for blossoming into your highest possibility. Similarly, mental stability and mental calmness come along the way of doing yoga which is sure to make you blissful in the process.
Scientific Reasons For Effectiveness of Yoga in Mental Health
Your body has a well defined nervous system that is divided into the Central Nervous System (CNS) and the Peripheral Nervous System (PNS). The PNS is further divided into the somatic nervous system and the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS). It is the autonomic system which plays a major role in helping our body to cope with the external environmental condition.
The sympathetic system of the ANS is responsible for preparing our body for ‘flight, fright and fight’ response (i.e. to cope up with stressful condition during fear, anxiety and even anger) while the parasympathetic system plays an important role in calming our body, taking care of our digestive system and most importantly in making our mind peaceful.
As acetylcholine is released during parasympathetic activation and it has been found that this neurotransmitter is responsible for keeping the mind attentive, alert, arousable, motivated and with high memorizing potential.
Moreover, doing yoga directly helps the parasympathetic system to take over the sympathetic system through the vagus nerve, which in turn cools down your body and calms your mind for sure. Additionally, doing regular yoga with a proper breathing technique (pranayama) helps to decrease the over activation of the hypothalamic gland and the pineal gland.
According to a review, “Effect of yoga and pranayama on psychological disorder” published on the European Journal of Pharmaceutical and Medical Research. It was seen that pranayama and yoga were successful to reduce stress, anxiety disorder and depressive symptoms in those people who were engaged in regular yoga.
Read More: Medical Research on Yoga and Its Health Benefits
Yoga Asana For Calm and Happy Mind
All the yoga asanas, if done correctly, can give you an amazing result in both your physical and mental health. However, here are few yoga asanas which is specifically beneficial for your mental wellbeing.
1. Anjaneyasana (Low Lunge Pose)
This asana is also known as the “high- lunge” as the body is thrust forward with outstretched hands. Doing this specific yoga can help to improve your circulation which in turn calms your mind.
- Start from a kneeling down position
- Thrust one leg forward keeping the ankle and knee in the same line
- The front leg’s ankle should make a 90-degree angle with the ground
- The back leg should be stretched backwards in a straight line
- Both the hands should be outstretched up and back, with the palms touching each other
- Try to go push your trunk back as much as possible forming a crescent shape
- Take deep breathe in and breathe out
- Repeat 5 times for each leg
This asana is not fit for a patient who has spondylitis or serious back pain and if the body position is not in a correct inclination, it might cause postural abnormality.
2. Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend)
This asana is an extreme form of stretching posture in which the ligament and tendon of the trunk and the proximal limb stretch to the fullest. Similarly, this stretching helps to release endorphins from the body which is a type of stress-relieving hormone that in turn helps to relax your mind and body
- Start by standing in an erect posture with both the legs flat on the ground
- Keep your hands on your hips and breathe in deeply and slowly
- Outstretch your hands and slowly while exhaling bend your hips and trunk towards your legs
- Do not bend your knees but bend your hips as much as you can, till your face touches the legs
- You can keep a hold on your ankle by the hands as a support
- Keep this posture for at least 1 -2 minutes
- And slowly taking long breathe come back to erect posture
Do not attempt to do this asana in a fast motion, attempt it slowly and gradually.
3. Shavasana (Corpse Pose)
“Shava” means a dead body or corpse and this asana urges us to lie still as a dead body. After performing strenuous exercise or yoga, this asana is usually done to relax the body. Even when you are under mental stress, you can simply do this asana which requires you to use zero physical effort.
- Lie on flat ground, with the back of your head, your shoulder, your hands, your lower back, your buttocks, back of thigh and calf and the back of ankle touching the ground
- Keep your palm facing towards the ceiling
- Close your eyes and lie still
- Now gently breathe in and breathe out
- You can lie down in this asana until you feel calm and relaxed, take your own time to sit up in other posture
4. Viparita Karani (Legs-Up-The-Wall Pose)
This asana involves you to use your hips and trunk. Restorative yoga also urges this asana and you are allowed to use props (like a cushion, pillow) while doing this posture. This specific asana is very effective in improving your circulatory flow and as you are to do this yoga against the gravity, your lymphatic activity also improves which in turn boosts up your immunity.
Moreover, the stretching of your spine helps to straighten up your spinal cord, keeps a good flow of CSF resulting in a calm state of mind.
- Lie flat on the ground with your trunk and the back of your head touching the floor
- Your legs need to be placed against the wall with the toes parallel to the ground
- The buttocks also need to touch the wall
- Or you can try it without touching the wall by lifting the trunk from the ground with the support of your hands
- Keep this posture for 5-10 minutes while you inhale and exhale slowly
Do not attempt to try this asana without the aid of the wall if your abdominal muscles are weak. You can always switch to doing this asana without the wall support once you are capable of performing it properly and when your core muscles get strengthened.
5. Natarajasana (Lord of the Dance Pose or Dancer Pose)
This asana is commonly known as “the dancer’s pose”. In this asana, your balance plays an important role; therefore, this asana is very effective in improving your attention span. With the balancing of mood swings, this asana has also proved to be effective for those people who are fighting depression.
- Start by standing erect with both feet on the ground
- Slowly inhale and as your inhale bend one of your knees backwards
- Grab the ankle of the leg whose knee has been bent backwards with the hand of the same side
- Keep the other hand gently forward making a Gyan mudra (touch your index finger with your thumb keeping the other three fingers outstretched)
- Now slowly exhale
- Hold this posture for 1- 2 minute with deep inhalation and exhalation
Pro Tip – While doing this asana, try to keep your focus on your breath and at the same time try to balance your posture without falling.
Doing yoga can relax you as it helps to prepare your body for higher possibilities. Therefore, it is always better to start working on your body and mind’s health by doing yoga or meditation, rather than focusing on medication after falling under some serious health conditions.