How I’m using yoga to boost my mental health

This article was written by Jason (left, back row in the photo above).

Thank you for sharing your experiences.

My name is Jason, I’m 41 and a member of the Lorikeet Centre. I’ve been doing yoga once a week for almost two years now for my mental health and overall wellbeing. I wanted to share my experiences of the benefits of yoga and why you should try it when you get a chance.

I go to a yoga and martial arts centre that costs me $15 for a session that lasts an hour and fifteen minutes. I also practice small amounts at home. When I first started, I was so stiff and sore that I could barely get off the floor, but I didn’t give up.

It became extremely fun challenging myself…

After my body gradually became accustomed to spending time on the floor, which as an adult I rarely did, it became extremely fun challenging myself to survive the poses. It also gave me great incentive to lose weight and make large adjustments to my diet, both of which I’ve been very successful in. I also started to become interested not just in my body health but also the health of my mind and spirit.

Although yoga often draws on a range of religious traditions and movements, the yoga that I do is not a religious. It’s called hatha yoga and it uses physical and breathing techniques to help you align your body, mind and spirit.

Hatha yoga consists of different body positions or postures called asanas. Some asanas you hold in one place for a few minutes and some flow from one to another.

Each asana has two names, a traditional Sanskrit name and the simple English version. Some examples of asana names are cat pose, lizard pose, warrior pose, sphinx pose, happy baby pose, and corpse pose. An example of a Sanskrit name is Marjaryasana which is the other name for cat pose. There are many asanas. Some focus more on balance, some more on strength and some on flexibility.

Yoga also has a lot to do with breathing. Without breath it isn’t yoga. Sometimes we dedicate our practice to somebody or a mantra word like kindness or strength.

Yoga has enormous health benefits both physically and mentally.

We do yoga on a mat that is made of rubber and is nonslip, and we also use props to help us with the asanas, objects like blocks, bolsters and straps.

At the end of the class, we do a five-minute meditation session, then we thank our bodies for what they do for us every day and then we thank ourselves for giving time to our practice. We think of three things we are grateful for that day like empathy or courage.  At the end, we bow our head and put our hands in our heart space and say “namaste”, which in Sanskrit means “I bow to you”.

Yoga has enormous health benefits both physically and mentally, and it’s also very fun and challenging. Even followed from a book or online, it’s well worth it. Although, I found it’s more productive and much easier to stick with when I had somewhere to go on a routine basis, that is the yoga group at the yoga and martial arts centre. If you have a group to go to with other members and a teacher, they can help push you and keep you interested. It is easy to get lazy and skip sessions if it’s just you at home, and it’s harder to get motivated.

It’s also much more fun sharing the experience with others in a room or dojo with a teacher to instruct you, and it keeps you interested too. Also, a professional teacher can help you refine your technique and give you advice.

Above all, I feel like a proud warrior.

yoga for mental health

Yoga is good for the mind

I always feel unreal after yoga, and I get a great sense of achievement and pride that I’ve survived another yoga class. Every week, my muscles get a little bit stronger and a bit more flexible, and my posture has improved significantly. I think the main physical benefit I’ve achieved is muscle strength.

But my mind has also benefited a great deal. I’m more focused and my mind is clearer, and I’m much more conscientious of how I treat my body with what I eat and exercise.

I’m also more careful on what I feed my mind like what I watch on television and more orientated towards good morals and doing good with a strong connection to myself and the planet.

Above all, I feel like a proud warrior.

I highly recommend that you try yoga if you get a chance. If you’re nervous, maybe take a friend or your peer support worker.

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