Improve Mental Health with Yoga

Improve Mental Health with Yoga


By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.


for many patients dealing with depression, anxiety, or stress, yoga may be a very appealing way to better manage symptoms. . . The evidence is growing that yoga practice is a relatively low-risk, high-yield approach to improving overall health.” – Harvard Health


Mindfulness practice has been shown to improve emotions and their regulation. Practitioners demonstrate more positive and less negative emotions and the ability to fully sense and experience emotions, while responding to them in appropriate and adaptive ways. The ability of mindfulness training to improve emotion regulation is thought to be the basis for a wide variety of benefits that mindfulness provides to mental health and the treatment of mental illness especially depression and anxiety disorders.


Exercise has also been shown to improve mental health. Yoga is both a mindfulness practice and an exercise. It has been shown to have a myriad of benefits for psychological and physical health, social, and spiritual well-being. There has accumulated a wealth of research studies of the effects of yoga practice on mental health. It makes sense to take a look at what has been learned. In today’s Research News article “Applications of Yoga in Psychiatry: What We Know.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at:), Nyer and colleagues review and summarize the published research studies of the effectiveness of yoga practice and exercise for the treatment of psychological problems.


They report that the published research studies found that there was a powerful effect of yoga practice on depression, including major depressive disorders, even in patients who did not respond to antidepressant drugs. They also report that yoga practice is a safe and effective treatment for anxiety disorders, including generalized anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder, PTSD.


They report that the research postulates a number of potential mechanisms for yoga’s ability to improve depressive and anxiety disorders. These disorders are associated with an imbalance in the autonomic nervous system such that sympathetic activity, activation, predominates over parasympathetic activity, relaxation. Yoga practice has been shown to rebalance these systems, strengthening parasympathetic activity. Also, high levels of perceived stress have also been found to be associated with depressive and anxiety disorders and yoga practice has been shown to reduce perceived stress levels. In addition, depressive and anxiety disorders are characterized by excessive emotions and yoga practice has been found to improve the individual’s ability to regulate their emotions. These are thought to be a potential explanations for yoga’s effectiveness.


So, improve mental health with yoga.


“In Sanskrit, yoga means to unite. As you grow in your ability to sense the relationship between your mind and body, you become more aware of dualities that exist in experience. The practice of yoga brings you to the awareness that there is a relationship between two ends of one phenomenon. You are body and mind.” – Deborah Khoshaba


CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies


This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ and on Twitter @MindfulResearch


Study Summary


Nyer, M., Nauphal, M., Roberg, R., & Streeter, C. (2018). Applications of Yoga in Psychiatry: What We Know. Focus (American Psychiatric Publishing), 16(1), 12–18.



Yoga has been in use for thousands of years in the East as a healing modality. Western practitioners are now starting to recognize the potential of yoga-based treatments. The purpose of this article is to explore the evidence-base of yoga-based treatments for depression and anxiety with the purpose of furthering the integration of yoga into conventional Western mental health treatment plans.


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