Using Yoga to Balance Mood During Mental Health Treatment
Using Yoga to Balance Mood During Mental Health Treatment

Using Yoga to Balance Mood During Mental Health Treatment

In the United States, yoga is seen by many as an esoteric form of exercise. However, yoga has evolved over several thousand years to provide many different people with many different forms of healing and help.

The word yoga comes from the Sanskrit word “yuj” that means to unite. The meaning is a reference to the joining of mind, body and spirit, which is the ultimate goal of most traditional yoga practices with their roots in India.

Yoga is meant to push students to perform internal work both emotional and intellectual as it is considered one branch of Indian classical philosophy. In other words, it was originally intended to be the ultimate bridge between the body and the unexplainable inner workings of the mind and emotions.

Modern Science Demonstrates the Mood Stabilizing Affects of Yoga

The tools yoga practitioners utilize to impact their mood are:

  • Physical movement
  • Poses that challenge the mind and body
  • Connecting to the breath
  • Meditation

Although these methods do not involve knowledge of chemistry, biology, or the need for a lab coat or an advanced degree, scientific research is starting to find efficacy in the use of yoga for the treatment of mental health issues including depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder.

A recent study by researchers from Boston University School of Medicine and Harvard found yoga not only to be effective in improving mood and decreasing anxiety, but discovered it may be better than other methods of physical exercise. They used MRI scans before and after yoga sessions to measure GABA levels in the brain because both depression and anxiety are linked to low levels of GABA. The scientists found a 27-percent increase in GABA after an hour of yoga in comparison to a control group.

Another study at the University of Utah showed that those who regularly participated in yoga had a greater buffer against stress and pain than both healthy and unhealthy individuals. It is well understood that stress is at least one possible component in most mental disorders. Increasing an individual’s ability to handle stress may be one way the practice of yoga helps to even out mood. In a separate study at the U of U, an irregular heartbeat was able to be calmed through the practice of yoga, a side effect that could be helpful for panic attack sufferers.

Using Yoga in Your Recovery

The potential positive effects of regular yoga practice are starting to be understood on a wide scale. So much so, in fact, even Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., is now offering yoga for returning Iraqi war vets that may suffer from PTSD.

Do you incorporate yoga into your treatment for stress, anxiety or depression? Are you considering it? We’d love to hear any thoughts or opinions you may have below about the calming effects of yoga and its use in the treatment of addiction and mental health disorders.