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6 Psychological Benefits of Yoga

Updated: Aug 9, 2023

Why yoga?

There is a growing body of scientific evidence which suggests that yoga compliments the work we do in psychological therapy. Yoga has been found to decrease symptoms of depression and anxiety [1], PTSD [2], as well as improve both quality of sleep and life [3].



Benefits of yoga

As with most things, these are 6 key benefits that can be experienced with regular practice and the more you practice, the more you reap the benefits!


1. Increased physical capabilities – postures and movement help to build strength, improve flexibility, balance, and general posture.


2. Reduced tension – certain breathing techniques paired with movement activates the body’s Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS), or “rest and digest” system. You can think of this as our body’s brake. Our PNS slows down our body to conserve energy, regulate and restore. Learning how to pump our body’s natural brake is particularly helpful for people who often feel anxious, on edge, tense or fatigued. Our body and mind start to let go of tension in this state.


3. More calm – breathwork and movement causes a decrease in the stress hormone cortisol, whilst increasing the body’s natural mood boosting and pain-relieving hormones, endorphins. We also see an increase in a chemical messenger called GABA. As GABA increases, the rate at which messages are sent and received in the brain slows down, which allows us to process things at a more relaxed pace. We feel generally calmer as a result of all of these changes.


4. Better understanding of ourselves – turning our mental gaze inwards and reflecting is part of yoga. We become more aware of the mind’s chatter, bodily sensations, and emotions, as well as our reactions to these experiences. The more aware we are of ourselves, the greater capacity we have to either change our experience, or our relationship with it.


5. Increased control of the wandering mind – we develop mindful awareness through yoga – that is, an ability to attend to our experiences as they arise moment by moment without judgment. We learn to re-direct the wandering mind - the mind that can often find itself stuck in the past (a common symptom of depression) or worrying about the future (a common symptom of anxiety and stress). We learn to focus on paying attention to what is happening for us now and identifying what is within our control. This can empower us to take helpful action.


6. Greater curiosity and self-compassion – rather than judging our experiences, we learn to tend to them as we would for a loved one, with kindness. This doesn’t mean we don’t push ourselves. We learn what our limits are and push ourselves to meet these, but not beyond. Practicing compassion in this way can placate our inner critic and soothe our minds and bodies.



I am excited to announce that Eastern Shore Psychology will be offering yoga for existing clients of the practice, beginning at the end of August. Sessions will be guided by myself, Jess – a Clinical Psychologist at ESP and Yoga Teacher. All that will be required from you is yourself and your yoga mat! Classes will be low-cost, and no experience will be required. Classes will be Hatha yoga inspired – think breathwork, stretching, gentle movement, rest, and relaxation. Our focus will be on the mind as much as the body, so that you can take what we practice on the mat to your life off the mat.


If even a little part of you is interested in exploring what yoga may do for you, please don’t hesitate to reach out, ask questions, or come along for a trial session.


See you on the mat!


Jess Bowring

Clinical Psychologist and Yoga Teacher BA(Hons.); MPsych(Clin)

 

What will therapy be like with me? I will provide you with a space to be listened to without judgment, to detangle your thoughts, to learn to de-stress and relax your body and align with the things that are most important to you in life. I’ll do this by offering support, information, strategies, and referrals. We will celebrate progress and navigate challenges together! Who do I work with? I’m currently focused on supporting adults to manage stress, worry and anxiety, issues with mood and sleep, self-esteem, burnout, grief and the impacts of trauma. What types of therapy do I use? I will chat to you about which therapy approaches may be useful for you and together we will choose one or several to use. I can provide:

  • Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)

  • Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)

  • Elements of Schema Therapy

  • Mindfulness skills

  • Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) skills

  • Compassion Focused Therapy (CFT)

  • Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT)

[1] Streeter et al., (2010). Effects of yoga versus walking on mood, anxiety, and brain GABA levels: A randomized controlled MRS study. The Journal of Alternative and Complimentary Medicine, 16(11), https://doi.org/10.1089/acm.2010.0007 [2] Gallegos, A. M., Crean, H. F., Pigeon, W. R., & Heffner, K. L. (2017). Meditation and yoga for posttraumatic stress disorder: A meta-analytic review of randomized controlled trials. Clinical psychology review, 58, 115–124. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cpr.2017.10.004 [3] Bankar, M. A., Chaudhari, S. K., & Chaudhari, K. D. (2013). Impact of long term Yoga practice on sleep quality and quality of life in the elderly. Journal of Ayurveda and integrative medicine, 4(1), 28–32. https://doi.org/10.4103/0975-9476.109548

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