June 21st is International Day of Yoga. Most people know what yoga is and have even attempted to go to a yoga class or two. It can seem like a series of impossible moves in which you bend your body this way and that. However, research has shown that not only is yoga a great way to exercise, it also has some really positive effects on your mental health.

Yoga marries the concept of mindfulness with movement and again research has shown both mindfulness and exercise to be great for mental health. Yoga has been shown through various studies to help balance the sympathetic nervous system, which in turn can help to control symptoms related to anxiety, depression, and PTSD. The following is a more in-depth look at some of the positive effects that yoga has on your mental health, according to research.

  1. Reducing Anger: In one study of adolescents (2012), yoga was shown to increase one’s ability to control anger, compared to a group that participated only in physical education. Practicing yoga has also been shown to decrease verbal aggression in adults.
  2. Reducing Anxiety: Numerous studies have found that yoga may decrease anxiety symptoms, including performance anxiety. In one study (2013) with adolescent musicians, yoga decreased anxiety in group and solo performances.
  3. Improving Sleep: In one study (2012) of postmenopausal women with a diagnosis of insomnia, yoga reduced insomnia severity compared to a control group. Another study of women with restless leg syndrome showed yoga improved multiple domains of reported sleep quality.
  4. Decreasing Post Traumatic Stress (PTSD): In one study (2014) focusing on adult women diagnosed with PTSD, yoga significantly reduced PTSD symptoms in women who received a 10-week yoga treatment compared to the control group. At the end of the study, 52 percent of the women who practiced yoga no longer met criteria for PTSD, compared to 21 percent in the control group.
  5. Improving Mood: Studies have shown yoga can help reduce depression, improve affect, and decrease perceived stress. For example, in a study with a prison-based population (2013), a 10-week yoga class increased positive affect and reduced reported psychological stress.
  6. Increasing Self-Image: Studies have shown that yoga can increase body appreciation and self-image in those who practice yoga consistently.

Marion White, MHC-LP