Yoga is truly one of the most beneficial forms of exercise a person can do. No one understands this better than clinical pharmacist Trupti Sarang from Austin, Texas. While she understands the importance of pharmaceuticals, hospital care, and surgeries, she believes that the real answer to chronic disease prevention lies in nutrition and other healing modalities in alternative medicine such as herbal medicine, massage therapy, meditation, and yoga.
According to Sarang, yoga doesn’t just change your physical state but also your state of mind. In addition to being a clinical pharmacist, Sarang is a practicing yogi and a firm believer in taking a holistic approach to your health. Although yoga can certainly help ease muscle pain and build strength, it also has countless mental health benefits. Sarang outlines exactly what yoga does for one’s mind.
Yoga Reduces Stress & Anxiety
One of the biggest mental health benefits of yoga is that it has the ability to reduce stress and anxiety, even when it’s chronic, shares Trupti Sarang. Studies have shown that after just one yoga class, people’s cortisol levels are lower (cortisol is the hormone associated with stress).
Further, research suggests that mind-body exercises such as yoga can reduce inflammation, which is yet another common manifestation of stress on your body. In addition to specifically targeting stress and anxiety levels, Sarang asserts that practicing yoga can also boost your mood and decrease feelings related to depression.
Yoga Can Help Calm You
Many people perceive yoga as an extremely calming activity. Deep breathing and meditation, which are both elements of yoga, are known to help you relax. But do they really? Trupti Sarang says yes. Yoga’s ability to calm people is actually proven through science. It is believed that acts such as deep breathing may work on the HPA axis (otherwise known as the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis). T
his axis controls both your sympathetic nervous system (AKA your body’s natural fight or flight response) and your parasympathetic nervous system (the system responsible for telling you to calm down). Research suggests that practicing yoga might reduce your sympathetic nervous system response while activating your parasympathetic nervous system, which can decrease your overall heart rate and blood pressure. In essence, Sarang claims that when your body starts to calm down in shavasana, so too does your mind.
Yoga Improves Sleep
Yoga has the power to improve your sleep. Studies have shown that when people who suffer from insomnia start practicing yoga regularly, they are able to sleep longer, fall asleep faster, and go back to sleep if they wake up easier than before. This rings particularly true for those above the age of 60 or those who are pregnant. The best way to reap the benefits of yoga in your sleep is to incorporate a gentle nighttime practice into your bedtime routine. There are a few poses in particular that Trupti Sarang claims will help put you to sleep.
This includes the legs up the wall pose, where you lie on your back on the ground and place the backs of your legs against the wall to create an “L” shape. The second is corpse pose, which has you lying flat on your back on the ground, with your arms and legs splayed out to your sides comfortably. Finally, a reclined or lying butterfly is another useful pose, which has you lying on the ground on your back, bringing your feet in so the bottoms of your feet are touching each other, and then letting your knees fall to the sides.
Yoga Improves Concentration & Focus
Lastly, Trupti Sarang asserts that another mental health benefit of yoga is that it can improve your ability to focus and concentrate. If you find it difficult to focus on the task at hand and are constantly distracted by your surroundings, then yoga might be for you. Studies have shown that yoga can boost your concentration, focus, and memory off the mat. This is because these are all traits that are required of you on the mat.
Whether you’re concentrating inward and listening to your body in order not to push yourself too far or you’re staring at a focal point during a particularly tricky balancing pose, yoga is all about letting go of distractions. In order to succeed in yoga, it is necessary to clear your mind and simply concentrate. Not only will this help you be less distracted in your personal life, but being able to clear your mind can also allow more room for memories to form and be retained in your mind.