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When people think of mindfulness and meditation,  yoga often comes to mind. Yoga encompasses the mind and body, and can be used for coping with mental distress or to gain a deeper spiritual connection with oneself while fostering physical strength, flexibility, and endurance in the process. 

There are several kinds of yoga that vary in difficulty as well as their target goals. Since yoga is often suggested as a form of treatment or practice for well-being, it might be beneficial to understand the benefits that go along with the practice. By understanding the benefits, you may find yourself more inclined to try yoga for yourself or consider it as a healthy treatment option during challenging life experiences. 

What Does the Practice of Yoga Entail?

Yoga is a term that defines a variety of practices that promote physical and mental well-being. There are many styles of yoga that range in difficulty, including gentle and mild practices, as well as intense, physically demanding practices. Different styles of yoga may target different health outcomes. Some styles of yoga, like Hatha yoga, for example, combine breathing techniques with physical postures, promoting relaxation and calmness in the mind.   Most yoga practices, regardless of intensity, include both meditative and physical elements. 

Examples of Hatha yoga styles (most commonly practiced in the United States and Europe) include: 

  • Ananda, meaning “divine joy.” This practice of yoga honors the joy that lives inside of each of us. This joy cannot be found through anything or anyone outside the self.
  • Anusara, meaning “flowing with grace.” This practice emphasizes the vinyasa flow style, holding some poses for extended periods of time. This type of yoga focuses on the belief that we are all inherently good and deserving to celebrate life.
  • Ashtanga, meaning “eight-limbed yoga.” This style uses a focus of eight principles that consists of a series of poses. These poses take form in a specific order combined with deep and controlled breathing. Ashtanga is used to promote focus, balance, and coordination.
  • Bikram, one style of hot yoga. This practice is performed in a high-temperature room to promote the flushing of internal toxins from the body out through sweating. A series of 26 postures are performed along with two breathing exercises.
  • Kundalini, a yoga practice that involves chanting along with specific controlled breathing and a specific series of postures. Kundalini is known to heal spiritual wounds that surround the physical body, otherwise known as the aura.
  • Vinyasa or Flow, a yoga practice that focuses on transitions and movements rather than the holding of positions. This style is perfect for beginners as it offers meditation and breathwork while teaching basic poses involved in other styles of yoga.

What Are the Mental Health Benefits of Yoga?

Yoga may help improve mental clarity and well-being by reducing or relieving stress and improving mental and emotional health. Because of the mindfulness elements involved in the breathwork and meditative principles of yoga, an individual learns to honor the thoughts and feelings they have inside of them. You are encouraged to be as present as you can on your yoga mat during a session. This helps to alleviate unwanted or harmful thoughts, as you can not make any changes or actions to change your life experiences while you are on your mat. You are empowered to take your time and use your yoga practice as self-care.

Another benefit for yoga with mental health would be to promote stress management while fostering skills such as concentration and acceptance. Some yoga practices are incredibly demanding, requiring you to maintain your balance and focus on your breath all at the same time. Yoga promotes concentration that is necessary to have in order to follow through with ordinary tasks. The skills learned in yoga extend much further than just finding stillness in the body and mind; they encourage growth in all areas of the brain as well. 

What Are the Physical Health Benefits of Yoga?

Research has also shown yoga to have positive effects on weight control, healthy eating, and sleeping habits, and it even works to alleviate symptoms associated with withdrawal. People that find themselves practicing yoga also feel compelled to eat better and stay hydrated, as yoga can be intense on the body from time to time. Yoga also promotes the physical endurance of your muscles as well as increases flexibility. 

Other benefits of yoga for physical health include:

  • Relieving symptoms of chronic diseases
  • Offering pain management for health conditions
  • Improving the overall quality of life

There is no surprise that the trifecta of mind, body, and spirit is transformed through the practices of yoga. You may walk out of your first session feeling already refreshed while it may take a while to get into the swing of it for others. If you are looking for a new fitness modality to incorporate into your life, yoga might be your answer! 

Yoga is a common suggested form of treatment for mental health and addiction recovery, but what benefits does it hold? There are several varieties of yoga practices that involve a combination of breathwork, physical postures, and meditation. While meditation typically focuses on the mind and spirit, yoga encompasses the mind, body, and spirit. Yoga offers numerous benefits on mental and physical health such as promoting mental clarity and concentration, flexibility and coordination, pain management for chronic conditions, and an emotional outlet for coping with life experiences. If you have not considered yoga as a form of treatment, be sure to look over the different yoga styles to find what one might work best for you. At West Coast Recovery Centers, we favor a combination of traditional and holistic treatment to overcome mental distress. We offer a variety of resources and services to fit your individualized needs. Give us a call at (760) 492-6509

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