Yoga is an important tool for mental health and wellness because it allows a person to mentally and physically relax. Different elements of yoga can assist a person in different ways, achieving different mental benefits. Depression and anxiety are the most commonly diagnosed disorders in today’s society. It is very common for people to be not able to cope with the rising pressures of society. This is why it is so important that individuals maintain their physical and mental health. Asana is particularly important for people to perform to support physical health, which in turn fosters mental health. In fact, many asanas can physically and energetically stimulate the body’s energy centers, chakras, to support mental wellness.
Physical relaxation is very important for overall health. Research says that being able to relax positively impacts the brain by balancing the neurotransmitters responsible for mental health issues. Through this, we can alter the way we interpret a stimulus that may seem threatening to us. We can reduce the level of hormones, like cortisol and adrenaline, when they are not needed and positively impact our stress levels, which also assists in maintaining physical well-being. When our body is not in a state of arousal and instead in a state of balance, it is better able to heal itself.
Sirsana (headstand) is considered the king of all asanas. It is a very effective pose for conquering fear. It is an inversion and a balancing posture. It sublimates the energy of arousal into Ojas energy which can bring peace and calmness. It also changes the blood pressure of the body and can allow the organs to function better. This pose could be performed wearing leggings, yoga pants, or bootcut yoga pants.
Another one of my favorite asanas for mental health is the matsyasana (fish pose). This is a heart-opening pose. It stimulates the anahata chakra (heart chakra) which allows us to release worries, fears, and anxieties. It is believed to be a treatment for anxiety and depression. Individuals who experience these disorders will often find themselves rolling their shoulders forward, turning themselves inward, keeping their necks tilted down and covering their torso into itself. By opening the heart and rolling back the neck in a fish pose, the body is energetically more open and is in the opposite form than what it usually is. Instead of being afraid, it is open and brave. Simply performing this asana by regularly wearing simple yoga shirts and yoga shorts or cotton yoga shorts can help alter the physical manifestations of mood disturbances, ultimately altering the mental processes as well.
The last asana I will mention is the savasana (corpse pose). This asana is said to be the hardest of all the asanas, and this is likely because it requires the student to totally relax. In the Sivananda lineage tradition of Hatha yoga, every class begins with a savasana that includes tensing and releasing each body part. I find these to be a very effective tool for anyone, especially those treating mental health issues. As you tense and release your body, you notice where you hold extra tension. Noticing where this tension is can help bring insight into what can be worked on. If you are holding tension in your neck, this could be related to your throat chakra. Maybe you need to stimulate your throat chakra by finding your voice and releasing things through open communication. This may be a window into releasing anxieties, worries, and stresses that are impacting your mental health!