Can Meditation and Yoga Improve Mental Health?
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Can Meditation and Yoga Improve Mental Health?


Yoga and meditation are the two most popular mind-body practices in the United States. Despite this, there is new information about yoga frequently.


Not only are yoga and meditation good for relaxation and improved physical health, but they can also improve one’s mental health.


So, we have created a list below of some of the mental health benefits of yoga and meditation.





What Does It Mean to Meditate? What Is Meditation?


The term “meditation” refers to a set of techniques that one can use to achieve a heightened state of awareness and improved focus. Because of this, it can be hard to define meditation.


There are many different ways to meditate. Most people think that meditating always involves sitting cross-legged on a cushion with the eyes closed. Some even imagine chanting mixed in. This is one example, but there are many different types of meditation that one can practice, including standing or walking meditations.


For those who are struggling with their mental health, mindfulness meditation is often recommended. Examples of mindfulness meditation include Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction and Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy.


Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction was originally developed by renowned meditation teacher Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn. His design involves a regular (often weekly) yoga and meditation practice.


During these sessions, individuals work to become more aware of the present moment. Additionally, the goal of this is to help them reduce their nervous system arousal and emotional reactivity, which in turn allows for a greater sense of calm, even during stressful situations.


Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy, on the other hand, combines Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (or CBT) with meditation and other mindfulness practices.


Yoga and Mental Health


Is Mediation Part of Yoga?


Meditation and breathing exercises are often included in traditional yoga practices. As such, many yogis will end classes with a few minutes of yogic breathing and guided meditation. This helps their students ground themselves in the present. Also, it helps them experience a deeper sense of relaxation.


Of the 8 Limbs of Yoga, several have to do with meditation and mindfulness practices. For example, Pranayama, the fourth limb, is all about breath control. The breath is often used in meditation exercises to reduce stress by lowering blood pressure and heart rate.


How Does the Brain Benefit from Yoga or Meditation?

Anecdotally, many people have reported positive mental health benefits and success at reducing stress after introducing yoga and meditation into their routines. There is research backing up these experiences, too.


Also, yoga and meditation are beneficial when it comes to managing both depression and anxiety. This is because of the skills developed in yoga and mindfulness.


Yoga can improve brain function, too. Cognitive impairments in adults over the age of 55 were reduced in those who practiced yoga. They saw improvements in their memory, executive functioning, and emotional resilience.



How Can Yoga Affect Mental Health?


Yoga and meditation can improve mental health for a lot of people.  Mental Health America  states that those struggling with depression,anxiety, ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), or PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) may find yoga helpful.


The following are some of the most noteworthy benefits yoga offers:

  • Better relationships (especially for those who practice yoga in a group setting)
  • Reduce stress
  • Reduced anxiety and nervous system arousal
  • Improved mood
  • Improved sleep quality



Some of the mental health benefits of yoga may stem from the fact that it’s a form of physical activity. As we know, moving the body in any way produces endorphins. Endorphins are chemical messengers that improve mood, reduce stress, and reduce pain.


Yoga also allows practitioners to get out of their heads and into their bodies. It gives their brains a break from depressive or anxious thought patterns and provides a much-needed source of relief.


As practitioners of Yoga know: mental health and physical health are connected.


Is Meditation a Good Way to Improve Depression? Anxiety?


Lots of research, including this study published in the journal JAMA International Medicine, shows that meditation can be a good tool for those struggling with depression and anxiety, as well as PTSD and other traumatic stress disorders.


Meditation can help these individuals to reduce their sympathetic nervous system activation. This is also knows as their “fight or flight” response. As a result, they feel calmer and more at ease, especially during stressful situations.


People with depression and anxiety tend to have problems with intrusive, distracting thoughts.  Because of this, these thoughts can quickly escalate into serious worries or regrets about the past. Meditation makes it easier for them to stay in the present moment and avoid ruminating on these thoughts.


Does Meditation Really Help with Mental Problems?


The research shows that meditation really can help with a variety of mental health conditions. Because it helps people to manage their stress responses and view their thoughts more objectively, it can be a great tool in a lot of cases.


It’s true that, sometimes, meditation alone is not enough to eliminate depressive and anxious thoughts. However, it can be combined with other treatments, such as therapy, antidepressants, or anti-anxiety drugs, to achieve greater results.



How Does Mindfulness Reduce Stress?


Mindfulness is relieving for many people. As many know, it helps people overcome stress, and stay focused on the things they can control (such as their breath). Also, it teaches us to pause and tune into our breath and other bodily sensations. As a result, this benefits us to stay calm and avoid letting things spiral.


Of course, this information about yoga and meditation should not be a substitute for medical advice from a person’s doctor or therapist. It should only serve as general information. Medical advice should be sought from professionals.




 Disclaimer: ALL IN Therapy Clinic aims to improve people’s lives. And we do this through providing effective mental health counseling by passionate professionals. Also, ee make information for your own education. Our publications are researched, cited, reviewed, and edited by licensed mental health professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As a result, it should not be used in place of the advice of a qualified healthcare provider.



Written and reviewed by

Dr Kyle Zrenchik, PhD, ACS, LMFT

Dr. Kyle Zrenchik is the Co-Founder of ALL IN, the Creator of the Couples Erotic Flow model for treating sexual issues in individuals and couples, Designer of the Deep Dive programs at ALL IN, and is one of the most well-respected couples counselors in the Twin Cities.

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