Yoga for Mental Health

Coral Gables Counseling Center - Wednesday, May 08, 2024
By Tiffany N. Perez

Yoga has been a viral sensation gaining popularity over the western hemisphere for the past several decades. But what is yoga exactly?
Is it a workout that helps with flexibility and self-discipline?
Is it a meditation that encompasses our focus on specific postures and our breath?
Is it a path to bridging communities?
Is it a path to healing traumas?
Or is it an opportunity to connect to our spiritual selves that will lead to our eventual enlightenment and overall growth as an individual?
What if I told you the answer is YES to all the above.

picture of Tiffany doing Yoga

Yoga is a pathway to connecting to our spiritual reality using asanas or postures and the control of our prana or breath. It is believed that through the practice of yoga we can reconnect with our “true self”.

This practice has been around for several thousands of years and has given people a clear path towards reaching something deeper within themselves.

Yoga is the complete mastery of the mind and can be understood easily through the lens of mental health.

Yoga can be more easily defined as a meditation focused on one’s own breath with the pairing of different movements of the body. A way to overcome the limitations of our preconceived notions and ultimately bridge the union of our mind, body, and spirit also known as our “true self.”

It can also serve as an opportunity for the blending of different individuals into a community that share similar goals of improving their health, overall wellbeing, and connection to others.

Through different postures held in the practice of yoga, we inevitably move our bodies resulting in the release of endorphins like serotonin and dopamine which help ward off anxiety and depression.

The different postures used in yoga can also be seen as a benefit in the westernized world where much of our time is spent seated behind desks in chairs for hours at a time. There are different asanas that can be used to help with the opening of our hips, chest, and back, while countering much of the damage ensued by extensive time spent in seated positions at our desks.

Our bodies store much of our experiences both negative and positive at a cellular level that may be experienced as physical tension and even in some cases unexplainable pain. Hip opening postures are just some of the movements used to help release some of this tension and discomfort by adding mobility to stiff muscle groups and strengthening core muscles for better spinal health.

According to Pantajali Maharishi, the creator of the Yoga Sutras, a guidebook created to assist with the proper theory and practice of yoga  (Satchidananda, 2020), one of the main goals of yoga is to learn how to control and restrain the many different afflictions of the mind in order to achieve an encountering of one’s soul, energy, or true self.

Similarly, mental health professionals like me, maintain this goal of working with clients to assist them in managing their many different afflictions of the mind to guide them on a journey back to their origin self, free from distraction, and free from unwanted confinement. Therefore, the union of these two approaches seemed not only right but necessary.

The sutra “Yogas citta vritti nirodhah” specifically discusses the goal of yoga as being the ability to control one’s own modifications of the mind (Satchidananda, 2020). When we think of modifications or fluctuations of the mind, we specifically acknowledge everything from memories, emotions, delusions, to even our own perceptions of reality, as distractions that arise resulting in, metaphorically speaking, ripples or waves of the mind. These ripples serve as obstacles that convolute our ability to see our own truth or our spiritual selves, our energetic body. The sutra goes on to explain that through the 8 limbs of yoga and through yogic practices we can achieve control of these modifications of the mind allowing ourselves to see essentially who we are and what is important (Satchidananda S. S., 2020). Psychotherapy similarly uses a wide array of methods and strategies that helps clients in recognizing and understanding their own modifications of the mind that may result in feelings of depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, and so on. Psychotherapy helps others to see how their obstacles or limited perceptions in thinking are impacting their lives, their relationships, and more importantly their relationship to themselves.

In my practice I tie in both Western and Eastern views helping individuals overcome obstacles that prevent them from achieving their goals and being happy. We can all benefit from the use of yoga and psychotherapy as tools to bridging a healthier relationship to ourselves. The best part about yoga is that it is for every body type and every level of fitness because it is not about your flexibility as some may mislead you to believe. Yoga is about the spiritual growth and connection to your life source, it is a humbling practice that unites our mind, body, and energy. While Western psychotherapy practices provide tangible tools that can help prevent harmful habits that impede our ability to be present in our lives. So, whether you wish to seek help from a professional or begin with aligning your breath to a path of intent, healing is possible and in your control.

From my light to your yours, namaste – “The Divine within me bows to the same Divine within
you”.

Reply and let us know if you thought yoga was just for flexibility and stretching.  Are you surprised it can also be used as a tool for our mental health?  Do you think you can incorporate a little yoga in your life for both your physical AND your mental health? We want to know!

Works Cited
(n.d.).
Satchidananda, S. S. (2020). The Yoga Sutras of Pantajali. Buckingham, Virgina: Integral Yoga
Publications.

QUOTE FOR THE WEEK

“Yogas vritti citta nirodhah” = “the restraint or control of the modifications of the mind is yoga” – Pantajali Maharishi.

LAKE WITH FLOWERS

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