How yoga benefits your mental health

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Yoga is an ancient Asian exercise regime used to promote health and longevity. The earliest depictions of yoga positions, called "asanas," go back to 3,000 B.C., and it has been considered to be a highly effective method of maintaining physical condition by many different cultures. The practice of yoga affects the mind, as well as the body, infusing a feeling of serenity and calm. These effects have a beneficial effect on mental health in a number of ways:

Improved Mind-Body Connection
For many people who have experienced traumatic events, such as crime, abuse or military action, the feeling of being disconnected from the physical body is profound and troubling. Yoga helps to heal this feeling of disconnection by providing control of muscles and controlled breathing exercises that places the practitioner in the moment, in full awareness of the activity of the body.

Reduced Stress Levels
Managing stress has become a common feature of everyday life for many people. Hectic schedules, demands of both work and family, increasing financial pressures and the fast pace of life can leave individuals feeling keyed up and exhausted at the end of the day. Yoga provides an effective way to separate your body and mind from the daily pace, providing improved physical condition, better breathing and a greater sense of personal control.

Lower Levels of Anxiety
Recent studies indicate that yoga practice can help individuals with anxiety disorders to manage their feelings better and enjoy improved function throughout the day. The reasons for this appear to involve the intense focus required for maintaining yoga positions and the increased oxygen flow to the brain that allows calming brain chemicals to flow freely. In addition, the serene atmosphere required for yoga practice helps the body to continue producing mood-modulating chemicals long after the exercise.

Reduced Depression
Studies also show that the regular practice of yoga can provide relief for individuals with depression. The structured breathing improves oxygen flow through the body to help the production of neurotransmitter chemicals in the brain that regulate mood. Increased blood flow from the positions also helps in this process. Doing yoga daily can help individuals with chronic depression to improve mood and allow better overall function in their lives.

Better Management of PTSD
Posttraumatic stress disorder is a psychological condition that results from experiencing a severely violent or dangerous event. Many veterans of military service develop PTSD on their return to civilian life because of the death and violence they have witnessed in combat. Individuals who survived a natural disaster or crime may also experience PTSD symptoms, which include hyper-alertness, sleep problems, depression and feelings of isolation. Yoga provides an atmosphere of calm and control, which can be helpful to those dealing with PTSD symptoms.

Improved Sleep Patterns
The gentle but intense stretching and holding movements required by yoga poses improve circulation, and the structured breathing patterns that accompany the positions increases the amount of oxygen flowing throughout the bloodstream. These actions assist in the release of toxins and improved production of hormones that are associated with sleep. Gentle yoga sessions before bedtime can help you to fall asleep faster and stay asleep throughout the night.

Yoga offers an effective method for improvement of both mind and body in a regime of exercise that anyone can do, whether in its most expert form or in the modified form for popular use. Try it and see how yoga practice improves your physical function and mental well being.
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