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Does Yoga Work as a Mental Health Treatment?

Does Yoga Work as a Mental Health Treatment?

The short answer is yes, yoga works as a mental health treatment. The mix of meditation and slow-movement calisthenics create a positive impact for many people who struggle with mental illness, as well as those who are looking to build up their natural, psychological resilience. In fact, one of the most impressive things about the practice is its ability to provide at least some improvement and symptom relief for almost any mental disorder in the book.

Now, it’s not a miracle cure. All the sun salutations in the world may not help someone who refuses to talk to a therapist about the negative thoughts and behaviors that are occurring in other aspects of their life. Moreover, yoga isn’t going to make someone’s schizophrenia go away, and it’s not going to suddenly make someone smarter. On the other hand, yoga has been used effectively to reduce psychotic symptoms. It’s also an increasingly common part of treatment plans for autistic children—in large part because a calmer mind has been linked to increased learning and cognitive development.

Generally speaking, mood disorders provide the most natural fit for a treatment plan that includes yoga. The calming effects of yogic meditation often have a direct impact on one’s depressed, manic, or anxious mood. Trauma and latent anxieties also tend to respond well to this type of yogic meditation, albeit under the guidance of a mental health therapist.


The Potential to Help and to Harm

Few mental health treatments are without risk, and yoga is no exception. As widespread as the benefits can be, there are practices and approaches that can do more harm than good. We’re not just talking about straining a muscle or hyper-extending a joint, either.

Eating disorders provide one of the clearest examples of the ways in which yoga may help or harm one’s mental health. A restorative, mindfulness-based session can help nurture a positive body image and calm the fears that one has about gaining weight. An almost daily habit of aggressive power yoga may instead serve as a rationalization for over-exercise that exacerbates the physical toll of the eating disorder.


Personal and Cultural Approaches to Yoga in Utah

Yoga is not a religion. You don’t have to convert to yogism, or anything like that. And while you may have already known this, it’s important to remember, whether you suddenly find yourself doubting the integrity of your own faith or feeling the persecution of those who mistakenly believe that yoga is in some way spiritually dangerous. Moreover, it doesn’t even have to be a particularly social activity. For quite a few people, yoga’s value is entirely about reducing the symptoms of their mental illness. And it’s something they can be done in solitude or with a close friend.

There’s also something to be said for not letting physical limitations stand in your way. Now, we’re not trying to gloss over the reality. Decreased mobility may mean limited opportunities to achieve yogic poses, but there’s also been a huge increase in the development of modified poses. Many types of physical disabilities may be easily overcome.


More Tips & Info

If you’re struggling with a mental disorder, we strongly urge you to talk to a licensed mental health therapist to develop a personalized therapy program. That said, aside from wearing comfortable clothing that doesn’t grab at your skin, there’s no great trick or preparation that’s needed to start a yoga habit. Eat light and bring a water bottle in case you get thirsty. The studio should have the equipment you need.

With this in mind, the following information provides tips and research for yoga’s potential to specific mental disorders—

Depression and Anxiety

Bipolar Disorder

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Personal Trauma

Borderline Personality

Substance Addiction

Traumatic Brain Injury

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Sleep Disturbance

Eating Disorders





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