Here at Soul, we care deeply about making the powerful impacts of yoga as accessible and inclusive as possible, for as many people as possible.
For this reason, we offer a variety of classes and options both through Soul Studio and Soul Community Trust – Otautahi. We also offer Trauma Sensitive Yoga through the Justice Research Institute, in partnership with ACC.
It is extremely important to us that we offer an environment that feels safe and welcoming, and that we hold space for whatever a student is bringing to the mat that day. As yoga teachers, we are aware that we are some of the people who are on the front line when it comes to mental health care. With over 50% of people coming to yoga for mental health reasons, and close to 80% sticking around because the practice is supportive of their mental health (https://www.mentalhealthawareyoga.com/), we take our role in supporting people towards better wellness seriously.
So why exactly is it that yoga is so good for our mental health? Let’s dive in and see ..
1. Mind-Body Connection
Yoga, in essence, is about unionising the breath, the body, and the mind. This intentional focus leads to enhanced self-awareness, meaning we are more tuned in to the signs and symptoms of stress, anxiety, or other emotional turmoil and can address them sooner rather than later.
2. The Power of Breath
Pranayama – the control of the life force energy that is our breath, is a foundational aspect of yoga. Moving intentionally through targeted breathing exercises can support the activation of the body’s relaxation response, shifting us out of the ‘fight or flight’ mode and into more or a parasympathetic state of “rest, digest, repair”. By consciously regulating our breathing, we can reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression, and promote a general sense of well-being.
3. Mindfulness and Presence
Mindfulness is another practice inherently linked with yoga. As we hold a pose and focus on our breath, we are training our mind to be here now – in the present moment – clearing out any mental clutter. A regular mindfulness practice has been linked to reduced symptoms of depression, anxiety, and even PTSD.
4. Emotional Release
Yoga poses, especially heart and hip openers, can serve as powerful avenues to emotional release. Holding certain poses may bring up repressed emotions or memories. With a trained and qualified yoga teacher and a safe environment yoga can be therapeutic, allowing students to process and release pent-up emotions.
5. Building Resilience
The challenging poses and sequences in yoga teach us to navigate discomfort with a sense of softness, grace, and surrender. The physical resilience we develop on the mat translates to mental resilience off the mat.
6. Community and Connection
Here at Soul we pride ourselves on being a connected, abundant, and fun community. Engaging with like-minded individuals who are also on a journey of self-improvement can provide invaluable emotional support and connection. Even though our shala is a place of quiet, a tonne of bonding happens before and after the classes in the comfort of our reception area, and at our regular community events.
7. Routine and Structure
Having a regular yoga practice introduces routine and structure into our life – and with that comes a sense of steadiness and purpose. This anchor can be super helpful when you are experiencing challenges with mental health.
8. Holistic Approach
Yoga’s holistic nature means we don’t look at the mind or the body in isolation. We believe it is completely integrated, and part of a bigger whole. For this reason, yoga goes hand in hand with other healthy living practices such as sleep hygiene, healthier eating, and positive thinking – all of which contribute to improved mental health.
So there you have it, some of the ways in which yoga can support your mental health along with your physical and spiritual wellbeing.
By finding a sense of harmony in the mind and body, we are able to find a little more calm in the chaos of everyday life, and a path towards inner peace. Whether you’re new to yoga or a seasoned practitioner, it’s never too late to harness its benefits for your mental well-being!
Keen to start your yoga journey and experience these benefits for yourself? Chat to the friendly team at Soul today about the best class for you!
With wellness vibes,