Yoga For Mental Health
Om Youve heard the chant. At least on TV, if not in real life. It probably conjures up pictures of a gifted acrobat contorting herself into a pretzel-like position, then somehow looking serene in a moment of meditation.
Yoga has made its way into mainstream America, and newcomers to the practice have learned that you dont have to win the genetic lottery in flexibility to gain the benefits of this ancient physical exercise. In fact, gyms, dance studios, and health clubs across the country are adding yoga classes to their schedules due to popular demand of Americans looking for calm in the middle of their stormy lives.
Yoga has its origins in ancient India. It began as an informal practice of physical and spiritual well-being, then became more formalized with Patanjalis yoga sutras in 200 BC. The yoga sutras of Patanjali still form the basis of many yoga classes today, both in the eastern and western hemispheres.
One of the most basic principles of yoga is the union of mind and body. Particular physical postures are designed to produce courage, patience, or calmness of the mind.
So, does this yoga gig actually work? According to researchers at California State University, San Bernardino, the answer is yes! In their study, 84 students participated in hatha yoga classes over a ten-week time period. The students demonstrated improved levels of both concentration and motivation, as measured by the researchers after two weeks and nine weeks. In fact, the researchers make claims that not only does yoga help reduce anxiety, but it can also make you mentally sharper.
Here are a few tips for would-be yogis
1. See your doctor before participating. Remember that yoga is a form of exercise. Its always wise to check with your physician to be sure its safe for you to participate in any exercise class.
2. Choose your first class carefully. Look for an introductory class to hatha yoga, which will walk you through the basic postures at a moderate pace. Classes such as ashtanga yoga and bikram yoga are much more demanding on your physical body, and are best suited for more experienced yogis.
3. Talk to your instructor. When you arrive at class, let your instructor know that you are new to yoga. Tell your instructor about any physical limitations or past injuries, so that the teacher can guide you into postures safely.
4. Listen to your body. It is possible to get hurt in yoga. If you find that a particular posture doesnt feel right, then back off. Never push yourself too hard.