You know that it is important to get your teeth cleaned by your dentist at least two times a year. Equally as important is to get a regular check-up by your doctor once a year. You may even seek the advice and guidance from a psychologist or social worker. We are fortunate enough to have these institutions that help us stay healthy. Our physical and mental health are all a part of our well-being. We cannot have too many resources, though, to encourage our overall health. Yoga is another resource that can be of great assistance to our mental health.
We often think of yoga as an exercise that helps you improve your flexibility in your tight hamstrings or relieve tension in your stiff back. Yes, the physical component of yoga is very important and quite beneficial. In this modern age, yoga has grown into a practice that helps improve some of the limitations in your body. But it goes beyond your stiff legs and sore back. Because of the physical nature of yoga, it is actually a doorway into your psyche; a method for treating some of the mental and emotional conditions we deal with on a daily basis.
The relationship between yoga and your mental health is strong. When your body feels good, your mind feels good, too. Through the various styles of yoga, you can tap into the parts of yourself that feel unsteady, dark, out of alignment, stiff, and blocked. When you are able to release these obstacles within you, the result is a more open and wholesome self-awareness. This is actually the basic intention of yoga. The earliest of teachings, over 5,000 years ago, were to remove the strains and tensions we hold in our minds and bodies in order to feel more alive and live an enlightened life. This is achieved through mindful meditation, deep breathing, and physical movement. These main components of the yoga practice help to eliminate the obstacles that hold us down.
Think about the common obstacles we experience: mental stress, anxiety, depression, physical ailments, and more. When these true experiences feel chronic and overwhelming, we can feel stuck, unable to move, and burdened. According to the yoga teachings, these are the things that limit our ability to live an authentic and enlightened life. Let's take a look at these yoga components and examine how each help with improving your mental health.
Breathing for Mental Health
In yoga, the breathing practice is called Pranayama. That simply means that you take control of how you breathe. These breathing exercises are away to encourage movement from within toward improved mental health. A common practice is to sit in stillness in a comfortable chair, for example, close your eyes, and take slow deep breaths.
Breathing deeply takes your full attention; helping your mind to settle on the present moment rather than worry about the past or future. The breathing effort also helps with healthy blood and oxygen flow. These are elements that will stimulate better health in your heart and brain.
Physical Movement for Mental Health
Moving your body can also encourage healthy mental health. It can sometimes feel that the negative emotions you feel sit in one spot in your body and make you feel heavy. Adding some simple motions like walking can be a good start to positive well-being.
Yoga, of course, works with that same principle; the movement of your body through a series of yoga poses invites the body to remove negative and uncomfortable feelings and makes room for positive ones. Any style of yoga can result in feeling better.
Mindful Meditation for Mental Health
For some, the idea of meditating may seem intimidating. It's viewed as something that is not quite accessible and difficult to do. But if you've never tried meditation, you can do some simple things to start the practice and improve your mental health. The breathing practice mentioned above is actually a source of mindfulness meditation. You are paying close attention to your breathing as a focal point. By doing so, you begin to shake off thoughts of the past and reduce your worrying about the future. Mindful breathing keeps you in the present moment. These practices need only take a few minutes of your time. As you get more accustomed to the practice, you can do it longer.
As you gain more proficient in your mindfulness practice, you can use it as a resource to help you in times of stress. When you find yourself feeling out of control in your thinking and your behavior, turn to a moment of breath work. Pause, come to stillness, close your eyes, and take some deep breaths. This can be very helpful to help you live a life of gratitude, joy, and appreciation.
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