Yoga for Emotional Wellness – Cultivating Positivity and Resilience

Incorporating yoga into your daily routine can help you to cultivate a healthy sense of resilience and emotional balance. All you need is a commitment to commit to a few minutes a day to practice.

Through mindfulness and introspection, yoga helps you develop a deeper understanding of your emotional landscape. This improved ability to regulate your emotions can help you stay calm and focused during challenging situations.

1. Breathing

People have been practicing yoga for thousands of years, and some scientific research supports the benefits of certain yogic breathing techniques, called pranayama. These breathing practices can be done with or without movement and can improve physical, mental and emotional health.

Yogic breath techniques help to regulate the body’s rhythm and calm the mind. They also aid in the flow of oxygen throughout the body. For example, a common yogic breathing technique is the three-part breath, which involves inhaling deeply into the belly, exhaling fully through the nose, and inhaling again, but this time into the chest. It’s important to practice these deep breaths in a place that is free of allergens and air pollution.

Another yogic breathing exercise that helps to calm the mind is the box breath, which is an easy breathing technique that combines inhaling for four slow counts and exhaling with a whooshing sound for six slow counts. It’s a great breathing exercise to try when you are feeling overly stressed or anxious. This kind of breathing exercise helps to release the built-up tension in the body and calm the nervous system by triggering an increase in the production of feel-good chemicals, like endorphins, while decreasing levels of stress hormones.

Other yogic breath exercises include Ujjayi, which is an advanced breathing technique that focuses on the sensation of air flowing through the throat and produces a sound similar to waves lapping against the shore. Another form of Ujjayi is Bhastrika, which involves rapid inhalation and exhalation to activate the parasympathetic nervous system that helps you to relax. This practice can be challenging and should only be done under the guidance of a trained yoga teacher.

2. Meditation

Yoga involves the use of different meditation techniques that can help you calm your emotions. These include breathing exercises that can help you relax, and they can be done anytime anywhere, even when you’re feeling stressed or upset. These techniques can be calming, like Alternate Nostril Breathing (Nadi Shodhana), or energizing, like Skull Shining Breath (Kapalabhati).

In addition to these meditation techniques, yoga also teaches you to be present and to observe your thoughts without judgment, which can also help reduce emotional reactivity. When you learn to be present, you’ll also develop the ability to focus on and appreciate the good things in life, which can boost your mood.

Therapeutic yoga is an alternative to drug or talk therapy, and research shows that it helps people manage depression. It reduces levels of cortisol and increases the activity of GABA neurotransmitters, which improve your mood and calm the mind. Yoga also teaches you to focus on the moment, which can help you be more resilient during challenging times.

The practice of yoga is centered on the idea that your body is a temple. It can help you regain a sense of spirituality, and it can increase your resilience to tragedy by empowering you to take control of your mental health.

Yoga can help you cope with a wide range of emotions, including grief and sadness, as well as anxiety and fear. It can also help you build a sense of self-love and compassion, which is important for maintaining sobriety and developing healthy relationships. To get started with Yoga for emotional wellness, start by finding a comfortable place to sit or lie down and notice your breath and heartbeat. Then, scan your body from head to toe and note any areas of tension or discomfort.

3. Self-compassion

Yoga teaches individuals how to connect with their bodies and the natural world. This connection promotes self-care, which can help individuals cope with stressors such as emotional challenges or tragedies. The movements and breathing of yoga are designed to structure thoughts and slow the mind, helping people process what has occurred and develop a calm center. Yoga can also provide a sense of purpose and meaning in life, which may be helpful to those struggling to overcome the impact of tragedy or loss.

In addition to asanas (poses), which build strength, balance and flexibility, yoga also teaches relaxation and breath techniques. These can be calming, like Alternate Nostril Breathing (Nadi Shodhana), or energizing, such as Skull Shining Breath (Kapalabhati). Both of these practices can help individuals learn how to soothe themselves when they are upset, which supports the practice of self-compassion.

On the yoga mat, establishing an intention of self-compassion at the beginning of your practice can help buffer any self-judgment that may arise during class. For example, if you struggle to hold a pose or feel tired or injured, focus on the fact that you’re trying hard and remind yourself of how much you appreciate each part of your body (beginning with your heart center).

Another way to practice self-compassion is by writing a letter to yourself. This is an opportunity to be kind and encouraging, as you would be with a close friend. This can be particularly beneficial in alleviating worry and the negative tendency toward rumination, which are both linked to stress and anxiety. For more ideas on how to cultivate self-compassion, read Kristin Neff’s Self-Compassion Journal Exercises. These can be used both on and off the yoga mat.

4. Self-acceptance

It can be easy to get caught up in negative thinking patterns, especially when navigating stressful life circumstances. In yoga, you learn to practice self-acceptance techniques to overcome these mental health challenges.

Yoga enhances body awareness and helps individuals develop a stronger mind-body connection, which is important for regulating emotions. It also encourages a greater sense of empathy and compassion for oneself, as well as others. These skills are valuable for overcoming the emotional distress associated with trauma and other conditions.

Practicing yoga is often combined with meditation, a mindfulness technique that helps change the way you respond to stray thoughts. Although it is challenging to prevent negative thoughts from arising during meditation, it is possible to learn to accept them without dwelling on them and to pay less attention to them. This technique can help reduce stress and boost your mood even when you are not practicing yoga.

Another benefit of yoga is that it can improve your quality of sleep. It relieves insomnia, fatigue, and other sleep disturbances that are commonly accompanied by mental health problems. It also alleviates chronic pain and anxiety to promote a restful and relaxing sleep.

As a result, individuals who regularly participate in yoga report improved sleep and increased energy levels. These effects are attributed to the vagal nerve stimulation that occurs during yoga practice, which is linked to reduced negative affect and higher feelings of happiness and wellbeing (Wilhelm et al., 2004). This is in line with research that shows yoga practice reduces negative symptoms of depression and anxiety, and increases positive self-esteem (Kok et al., 2013). In addition, yoga can increase the number of good friends you have and boost your social support system.

5. Self-reflection

Yoga, as a mindfulness practice, helps you learn to stay present. It also gives you a way to name your emotions so that you can begin to recognize the patterns of negative thinking that trigger panic attacks or anger outbursts. This shift in perspective can be a critical step to offering compassion towards yourself and to quieting negative thoughts.

Another skill that therapeutic yoga teaches is the ability to be comfortable with discomfort, whether that’s typical daily stressors or an emotional crisis. This is because of the way yoga can help you build distress tolerance, a vital skill for managing stress and anxiety.

The physical poses (asanas) of yoga can improve strength, flexibility, and balance. They can also aid in relaxation and improve concentration. Yoga also includes breathing techniques, called pranayama, that can be calming or energizing. Yoga has been shown to reduce symptoms of depression and improve mood by promoting calmness and self-control.

Finally, yoga can teach you to become aware of the sensations in your body and notice that they are temporary. This can help you to gain the confidence needed to face any situation that arises. This can include being able to recognize the warning signs of a panic attack, an episode of addiction withdrawal, or even a relapse.

In a clinical trial, researchers found that incorporating yoga into a program for emotional recovery improved the mental health of participants. It also helped them develop a sense of autonomy, which is a vital part of maintaining a healthy lifestyle after treatment. This is because it allows people to start doing things for themselves that are empowering and self-affirming, rather than relying on outside validation or substances.