New Delhi: Mental illnesses in various forms have been a major health burden globally in recent years. An unhealthy lifestyle, poor eating habits and an increase in work-related stress are factors that are contributing to the increased incidence of anxiety and depression. Psychiatric medications are effective in treating anxiety and depression but provide only symptomatic relief. Long-term use of drugs often leads to dependence without providing a comprehensive solution to prevent further illness or improve mental health.
People suffering from poor mental health can reap rich and long-term benefits by adopting the ancient Indian practice of yoga in their daily lives. Yoga helps in maintaining good mental and physical health. It harmonizes our body and mind and restores our emotional balance. There is increasing evidence that yoga can have a positive effect on people with depression, anxiety, and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). When adopted as a daily practice, yoga can help to calm the mind and prevent the development of mental illnesses.
Stress is the root of many lifestyle diseases. Yoga takes a scientific approach to exercise and relaxation to reduce the stress of modern life. Yoga also contributes to improving memory, sleep and even quality of life in elderly individuals with mild memory impairment.
Here are some poses that help in improving mental health apart from providing other health benefits:
Shashankasana or Child’s Pose:
This asana stimulates your nervous system thereby re-energizing your entire body. This asana is basically a relaxed posture which somehow resembles a child in the fetal position. It is done by kneeling down and then bending forward so that the chest touches the thighs and the forehead touches the ground. Extend the arms forward. If performed regularly with precision, the artist will see a sense of mental, physical and emotional comfort descend upon him. Like most yoga asanas, this too should be done on an empty stomach or at least six hours after a meal. However, people suffering from high blood pressure and back pain should avoid this asana.
This inverted pose is one of the best yoga asanas to improve blood circulation towards the head. It helps to calm anxiety, treat depression and insomnia, in addition to regulating blood flow. This asana can be done lying straight on the back. Keep the feet together. While inhaling, raise the legs, buttocks and torso and support the hips on the palms. The trunk is held at an angle of 45 degrees to the ground. Breathe normally in this position. To go back, keep the feet above the head and while exhaling, keep the hands down. Bring the spine and legs down.
This yoga pose is considered therapeutic for people suffering from hypertension, asthma, sinusitis, infertility and osteoporosis. It also helps relieve mild depression and overcome insomnia as it is highly beneficial as a relaxation tool. To do this asana, stand straight. While breathing slowly, raise the hands above the head from the front. Lean back from the upper back and maintain the position with normal breathing.
This mudra is usually performed at the end of a yoga routine and helps to promote mental health and relax the body. Lie down on your back, keep the body straight and keep the palms facing up, keeping the hands by the side. Close your eyes and stay in this position for at least five minutes. Even pregnant women can practice this asana as it will help them prevent prenatal depression, a mental disorder prevalent among women during pregnancy.
It should be noted that the above-mentioned yoga practices have to be learned in a gradual manner under the supervision of a yoga expert. Yoga enables a practitioner to expand their psychic abilities and gain greater acceptance of self and others, which ultimately leads to a calmer approach to life.
Yoga encourages practitioners to experience an open heart. Many yogic philosophers believe the whole practice to be about connecting metaphorically to our hearts. Within the chakra system, the heart is located in the middle of the seven chakras. Asanas such as Ardha Chakrasana (Backward Leaning), Kapotasana (Pigeon Pose), and Ustrasana (Camel Pose) encourage expansion of the center of the chest which is the site of the Anahata Chakra, the yogic heart center. Visualization and pranayama in yoga also encourage an open heart.