Yoga — a form of moving meditation that demands focused attention on your body — has many physical, mental, emotional and even spiritual benefits that can be helpful for those struggling with pain- and/or stress-related health problems. As you learn new ways of moving and responding to your body, your mind and emotions tend to shift and change as well.
In a sense, you not only become more physically flexible, but your mental outlook and approach to life may also gain newfound flexibility.
Yoga appears to be particularly beneficial when it comes to mental health, with studies showing it helps improve psychiatric disorders such as depression, anxiety, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and schizophrenia.1,2,3,4 Some of these studies suggest yoga can actually have an effect similar to that of antidepressants and psychotherapy.
In studies with teenage participants, yoga has been found to strengthen emotional resilience and ability to manage anger.5 In the elderly, it’s been shown to stave off cognitive decline6 to a greater degree than aerobic exercise.7,8 Most recently, gentle yoga practice has been identified as a valuable aid in healing childhood trauma, known to be a source of not only poor mental health but also a contributor to chronic health problems such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer.9