Yoga is a practice that has existed for thousands of years, yet it’s only in the last 30 or so that we are beginning to understand the vast impact of yoga on mental health.

The studies are in and the results are pretty incredible, it turns out the psychological benefits of yoga are just as powerful, if not more so, than the physical benefits. If you are a woman who is 50 years or older, or you’re a newbie to yoga, read on to see how you can improve your mental health by regularly practicing yoga.

Yoga Can Reduce Depression

An emotional elderly woman who is stressed and depressed is spacing out in the garden.

Depression is one of the most common mental illnesses in the world. If you’ve struggled with depression then know you aren’t alone; it’s estimated there are 350 million people in the the world who have some form of depression.

Depression is so much more than feeling blue or having a bad day. Depression can affect your relationships, your ability to hold a job, your physical health, and your mental health in major ways.

Research is showing that practicing yoga can reduce depression and its symptoms and it’s often recommended as a complimentary therapy by health professionals. How does it work? Practicing yoga increases blood flow in your body and reduces stress and anxiety. You’ll see that your heart and breathing rate decrease and your serotonin production increases. Serotonin is believed to play a major role in happiness and one study has found that people with depression have lower serotonin levels.

Yoga Can Reduce Stress and Anxiety

Many people turn to yoga specifically to help reduce stress or deal with stress in their life. Stress and anxiety play a heavy toll on your mental health and your body. Yoga includes breath training which can help you when confronted with a stressful situation. One study also found that it’s possible that yoga increases the levels of the brain chemical gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the body. People with low levels of GABA tend to deal with anxiety and mood disorders.

The regular practice of relaxing muscles, meditating, breathing and exercising your body in a peaceful atmosphere through yoga has been shown to decrease cortisol in the body. Cortisol is the stress hormone that is triggered when your body receives stress signals. Too much cortisol is hard on your body to stay in balance and it leads to the stubborn belly fat. Implement yoga to improve your mental health and reduce stress reactions in the body.

Yoga Can Boost Your Mood

An elderly couple who are in a good mood and are doing yoga together.

Exercise is great therapy for improving your mood. When you do yoga you lower cortisol and increase endorphins which brings more oxygenated blood to your brain. These “feel-chemicals” can give you a daily boost of messengers like dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine. If you’ve never tried yoga before you may be surprised to find that even though often times the movements are slow and gentle your heart rate will still increase, releasing those helpful brain chemicals.

How Does It Work? Yoga and Your Mental Health

It’s a too simplified to state that “yoga makes you feel great!” and leave it at that. There are specific systems and processes going on in your body that lead to better mental health thanks to yoga. While some of those systems have already been discussed above, another interesting point is how yoga helps the heart which in turn impacts your mental health. Ongoing research is showing that yoga may increase heart rate variability (HRV). An increased HRV works to calm the autonomic nervous system, the part of the body that stores trauma.

Why does that matter? Well HRV is measured by the distance between one heart beat and the next. If you have an increased HRV then your body does a better job calming your autonomic nervous system and regulating your emotions. If you notice that your breath gets short or shallow when you are stressed, anxious or nervous then you are experience decreased HRV.

When you practice yoga you are essentially giving your heart and physiology¬† healthy training that lead to better regulation of emotions and a calmer state that will benefit you when life’s stresses and hard times come your way.

The Best Way To Learn Yoga

Jen of let's Practice Yoga demonstrates a Yoga Pose

If you are just beginning your yoga journey it can be daunting to know where to start. There are hundreds of YouTube videos to sort through, looking for the right teacher or a video that fits your interest and teaches you what you want to know. Ideally the best way to learn yoga is to start with a class that can guide you through each pose so you know you are doing them correctly and won’t risk injury. We realize that going to an in-person class just isn’t always ideal, possible or practical. If you’re over 60 you want a teacher that will provide encouraging guidance through your yoga journey and Jen Bonny does just that from the comfort of your home.

Jen is a wife, mother and grandmother who has taught yoga for the past 8 years. She has created an online classroom of 30 classes where you are guided through all of the beginner friendly poses, given instruction on how to correct your technique and guided through a 30-minute yoga class.

The classes include breathing exercises and guided meditation and could be just the thing you need to take control of your mental health and see positive changes. Click here to read more about Jens course and start your class today!.