Yoga has long been considered an effective way to maintain good physical health as well as mental well-being. A series of complex poses and movements combined with effective breathing techniques, yoga has been practised in India for centuries. Over time, its many branches have sparked a new lifestyle in many parts of the world.

Exercise of any kind has been linked to improved physical health. Performing yoga asanas has the same effects on the body, while also emphasising on a greater balance between the body and the mind. It is already known to reduce mental fatigue and stress while improving focus and concentration. Yoga is also known to improve symptoms in several health conditions from high blood pressure to polycystic ovary syndrome.

Now, new research has emerged that says movement-based yoga techniques can help ease symptoms of depression and many other mental health issues as well. 

As many as 450 million people are said to suffer from mental illnesses around the world. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that one in four people in the world will be affected by some kind of a mental health condition or neurological disorder at some stage of their lives. About 7.5% of the Indian population suffers from some form of mental illness, and the country accounts for nearly 15% of the global mental, neurological and substance abuse burden, according to a WHO report.

  1. Effects of movement based yoga on mental health
  2. Yoga asanas for mental health

A group of researchers from the University of South Australia published a study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine titled "Effects of yoga on depressive symptoms in people with mental disorders: a systematic review and meta-analysis", on 5 April 2020.

The study was done to assess whether movement-based yoga is helpful in alleviating depressive symptoms in people diagnosed with mental disorders. For the study, the researchers defined movement-based yoga as any form of yoga where the practitioners are physically moving or active for at least half the duration of the session. Being active or moving in this context means holding poses during complex asanas or flowing from one asana to another or through an entire sequence of asanas.

The research involved as many as 1,080 participants from six countries—India, USA, China, Japan, Germany and Sweden—who were already diagnosed with mental disorders such as anxiety and depression.

For the purpose of the research, only the asanas and movements that fit into the researchers' description of movement-based yoga were made a part of the study. Meditation techniques, breathing exercises or similar movements were not made a part of the research, as previous studies that did include those practices yielded mixed results.

The results

Yoga poses or asanas, as they are known in Sanskrit, have long been known to ease tension in the body, freeing up the muscles and tendons of the body and correcting the posture in the long run. Yoga has also been known to reduce symptoms of mental illnesses, and the new research corroborates that.

The research included as many as 19 studies and included a large number of patients with different mental health problems, including depression, anxiety, schizophreniapost-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)bipolar disorder, and those with alcohol dependency. 

According to the findings of the study, yoga helped reduce symptoms of all the underlying disorders. Patients who did yoga felt better compared to those who were on the waitlist to be clinically treated, undergoing medical treatments or attention control techniques.

The study also found that greater reductions in the symptoms of depression and other disorders when there were more yoga sessions per week. The number of hours in a session was not taken into account; however, the frequency of the sessions during the course of a week made a difference, according to the researchers.

The research was conducted during the outbreak of COVID-19, an infectious disease that necessitated unprecedented public health measures like nationwide lockdowns. Self-isolation, one of the buzzwords to have emerged from the global pandemic, was one of the reasons behind the research, with growing concerns over people not being able to physically connect, leading to feelings of loneliness.

The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic brought about drastic changes in people's lives, including having to deal with the anxiety of living through a pandemic and working from home during the pandemic. The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare of the Government of India also recommended some simple yoga asanas to help deal with such feelings.

Read more: Yoga for stress management during COVID-19

Here are some yoga asanas that can help you to manage stress and mental fatigue during these times of pandemic, as well as otherwise. 

Try to incorporate breathing based yoga exercises such as the different varieties of pranayama, such as anulom vilomKapalbhati Pranayama and other deep breathing exercises as well.

If you haven’t performed any of these movements before, follow the instructions, and if possible, refer to yoga instructors, manuals as well as videos to perfect them. If you have any underlying health problems, always consult a doctor before putting strain on a particular part of the body.

Find Yoga trainer in cities

  1. Yoga trainer in East Sikkim

References

  1. Brinsley J et al. Effects of yoga on depressive symptoms in people with mental disorders: a systematic review and meta-analysis British Journal of Sports Medicine. 2020 May. [Internet]
  2. Barton E. Movement and Mindfulness: A Formative Evaluation of a Dance/Movement and Yoga Therapy Program with Participants Experiencing Severe Mental Illness American Journal of Dance Therapy. 2011 Oct. 33: 157–181.
  3. Bussing A et al. Effects of Yoga on Mental and Physical Health: A Short Summary of Reviews Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. 2012 Sep; 165410.
  4. Woodyard C. Exploring the therapeutic effects of yoga and its ability to increase quality of life International Journal of Yoga. 2011 Jul-Dec; 4(2): PMC3193654. PMID: 22022122.
  5. University of South Australia. [Internet] Adelaide, SA, Australia. Managing mental health with yoga

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