7 Ways Yoga Can Serve as a Supplementary Treatment for Mental Disorders

To delve into the intersection of yoga and mental health, we’ve gathered seven insightful perspectives from professionals, including mental health therapists and clinical counselors. From exploring yoga’s multifaceted benefits to understanding how it promotes stress reduction and emotional balance, this article offers a comprehensive look at how yoga can serve as a supplement.

  • Imparts Multifaceted Benefits for Mental Health
  • Enhances Psychotherapy and Tolerance of Discomfort
  • Emphasizes Mindfulness and Present Awareness
  • Complements Therapy with Exercise and Meditation
  • Provides Mental Clarity and Emotional Release
  • Boosts Mental Well-being and Mood
  • Promotes Stress Reduction and Emotional Balance

1. Imparts Multifaceted Benefits for Mental Health

Yoga incorporates mindfulness, deep breathing, and relaxation techniques, all of which can help reduce stress and promote emotional well-being. These practices can be particularly beneficial for individuals dealing with anxiety and depression. 

Yoga also fosters self-awareness and emotional regulation, teaching individuals how to manage their responses to difficult emotions and stressors. The physical aspect of yoga, through regular exercise and increased body awareness, can improve mood. Group yoga classes can provide social connection and community, addressing loneliness and social anxiety issues. 

Yoga is often used alongside traditional therapy or medication as a supplementary treatment for mental disorders. It complements other interventions. However, it’s essential to recognize that while yoga can be a powerful adjunctive therapy, it may not be a standalone solution for severe or persistent mental health conditions.

Agnes Simone, Board Certified Adolescent and Adult Psychiatrist

2. Enhances Psychotherapy and Tolerance of Discomfort

Yoga provides multiple opportunities to enhance the work being done in psychotherapy. For example, the asanas allow one to tolerate discomfort—not merely physical discomfort. 

As one explores small shifts and changes in bodily position, thoughts and feelings that may have been unconsciously trapped in physical misalignments may be freed, subtly or forcefully. The physical and emotional discomfort or awareness that may arise during yoga can enhance and complement one’s psychological exploration by providing more opportunities to tolerate these embodied experiences, thus allowing for deeper and more challenging exploration. The breathwork of Kundalini Yoga can similarly enhance exploration. 

Also, both asanas and breathwork can be utilized to help soothe and calm the nervous system. Rather than following the impulse to quell discomfort with dysfunctional behavior like alcohol or food, one might turn to yoga.

Camilla Mager, Founder, IntrinPsych Woman

3. Emphasizes Mindfulness and Present Awareness

Yoga, an ancient practice incorporating physical postures, breath control, and meditation, has recently gained attention for its potential mental health benefits. Research suggests that yoga can help reduce symptoms of anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder, among others. 

The practice emphasizes mindfulness and being present, which can increase self-awareness and promote relaxation. The physical aspect of yoga releases tension and can stimulate the release of endorphins, the body’s natural mood elevators.

Yoga can complement traditional therapeutic interventions for mental disorders as a supplementary treatment. Its holistic approach focuses on mind, body, and spirit interconnectedness, offering a broader perspective than purely symptom-based treatments. Furthermore, yoga equips individuals with self-regulation tools, fostering resilience and greater control over one’s emotional and mental states.

Nilou Esmaeilpour, Clinical Director and Registered Clinical Counsellor, Lotus Therapy

4. Complements Therapy with Exercise and Meditation

Yoga practice is often recommended to clients as it serves many roles. It provides exercise to release adrenaline and endorphins, as well as meditation to calm the amygdala, the emotional center of the brain, and help clear negative thoughts. There is a sense of pride people feel when improving or accomplishing things. 

In yoga, progress regarding flexibility and mastery of more poses can be monitored. When the emotional core is calmer, concentration and rational thinking are improved. Yoga can be considered a wonderful sister treatment for mental and physical health therapy.

Lynne Shine, Mental Health Therapist, Audubon Counseling

5. Provides Mental Clarity and Emotional Release

As a life coach and an RYT-200 certified yoga teacher, I’ve experienced how yoga deeply connects with our mental health. Yoga offers more than just physical flexibility; it provides a space for mental clarity and emotional release. 

In my coaching sessions, integrating yoga has helped my clients to feel more grounded, calm, and less overwhelmed by their emotions. It’s like giving the mind a gentle stretch, allowing it to breathe and find balance. While it’s essential to understand that yoga isn’t a magic cure, it can be very valuable when combined with traditional mental health treatments. 

Many of my clients have shared that their regular yoga routine has helped them better manage their anxiety and stress.

Bayu Prihandito, Psychology Expert, Life Coach, Founder, Life Architekture

6. Boosts Mental Well-being and Mood

As a licensed clinical social worker focused on mental health, I find yoga a fantastic supplementary treatment for mental disorders, including anxiety and depression. There is evidence showing that the mind-body connection is powerful. 

Yoga improves physical and mental well-being by creating calmness and clarity, decreasing stress, improving focus, and increasing mindfulness and body awareness. When practiced regularly, yoga can decrease symptoms of anxiety and depression. Additionally, yoga releases specific chemicals in the brain, which helps to boost mood.

Jennifer Zator, Mental Health Therapist, Peace and Wellness Therapy Services, LLC

7. Promotes Stress Reduction and Emotional Balance

Yoga intersects with mental health through stress reduction, emotional balance, and improved well-being. As a supplementary treatment, yoga offers tools for managing mental disorders by promoting relaxation, self-awareness, and emotional regulation. It complements professional care, enhancing overall mental well-being.

  1. Stress Reduction: Yoga’s deep breathing and mindfulness lower stress hormones, fostering mental calmness.
  2. Emotional Balance: Yoga promotes self-awareness and emotional stability, reducing mood swings.
  3. Anxiety & Depression: Regular practice eases symptoms, enhancing mood and reducing anxiety and sadness.
  4. Focus & Memory: Concentration in yoga enhances cognitive functions, memory, and problem-solving.
  1. Physical Health: Enhanced strength and flexibility boost self-confidence and overall well-being.
  2. Mind-Body Connection: Yoga heightens awareness of body signals, empowering self-care and mental health control.

Thomas Giancarlo, D.O., Michigan Neurology Associates & Pain Consultants

Here’s a quick summary to recap the seven key ways yoga can benefit mental health:

  • Multifaceted Benefits: Yoga is a comprehensive package addressing stress, anxiety, depression, and emotional well-being.
  • Psychotherapy Enhancement: Yoga’s ability to help individuals tolerate physical and emotional discomfort can provide additional depth to traditional therapy sessions.
  • Mindfulness & Present Awareness: The practice emphasizes being here and now, which calms the mind and enhances self-awareness.
  • Exercise & Meditation Combo: Yoga offers a balanced blend of physical exercise and mental meditation, each complementing the other.
  • Mental Clarity & Emotional Release: Yoga can be a gentle mental ‘stretch,’ allowing the mind to breathe, declutter, and find balance.
  • Boost in Mental Well-being: Regular yoga practice has been shown to elevate mood and reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression significantly.
  • Stress Reduction & Emotional Balance: The deep breathing and mindful practices in yoga offer a natural means of stress reduction, promoting emotional balance and overall mental well-being.

Suppose you’ve been intrigued by how yoga might be a beneficial adjunct to more traditional treatments for mental disorders. In that case, it might be worth considering integrating yoga into your wellness routine. But remember, yoga should not be considered a substitute for professional medical advice or treatment. Always consult with a healthcare provider to diagnose and treat any medical conditions you may have.

Eight Benefits of Therapy and Counseling

When It’s Time to Go from Downward Dog to the Therapist’s Chair: Signs You Need Professional Help

Even as we explore the benefits of yoga for mental well-being, it’s crucial to acknowledge when a more formal therapeutic approach is needed. Here are some signs that it might be time to consider scheduling a session with a mental healthcare professional:

  • Persistent Sadness or Anxiety: If your emotional state isn’t improving—even after plenty of Savasanas—it might be time to consult a therapist.
  • Disruption in Daily Life: When your mental state starts affecting your work, relationships, or routine activities, that’s a cue to seek professional guidance.
  • Uncontrollable Emotions: If you’re experiencing severe mood swings or emotional outbursts that yoga or mindfulness can’t seem to manage, it could be a sign that you need more specialized help.
  • Feeling Isolated: Sometimes, the group setting of a yoga class isn’t enough to tackle feelings of loneliness or isolation, and a therapist can offer more personalized support.
  • Physical Symptoms: Headaches, stomach issues, or other physical complaints without a medical explanation can sometimes be manifestations of mental distress.
  • Recurring Harmful Thoughts: If you’re dealing with persistent thoughts of self-harm or harming others, immediate professional help is essential.

If any of these signs resonate with you, consulting with a healthcare provider for a more formal diagnosis and treatment plan is wise.

Types of self care as physical or mental wellness collection outline concept. Be happy with emotional, practical, social and spiritual lifestyle method vector illustration. Woman with body harmony.

Setting Your Intentions: Goal-Setting and Progress-Tracking in Therapy for Stress Management

Yoga often begins with setting an intention, and therapy can benefit from this approach, too. Having goals in your therapeutic journey is essential, especially when focusing on stress management. Here are some tips on how to go about it:

  • Be Specific and Measurable: Instead of setting a vague goal like “reduce stress,” aim for something more specific, like “practice deep-breathing exercises for 10 minutes daily.”
  • Break it Down: Large goals can seem overwhelming. Divide them into smaller, manageable tasks to keep yourself on track.
  • Communicate Clearly: Be upfront with your therapist about your goals. A two-way communication channel will make your journey more effective and tailored to your needs.
  • Journal Your Journey: Record your thoughts, emotions, and progress. This not only serves as an outlet but can also provide valuable insights.
  • Celebrate Small Wins: Progress might be slow, but celebrate the small victories along the way. They add up!
  • Regular Check-ins: Review your goals with your therapist to evaluate how you’re doing and adjust your plan as necessary.
  • Be Open to Redefining Goals: As you progress or face new challenges, your goals may need to be revised. That’s entirely okay and part of the therapeutic process.

By setting clear goals and tracking your progress, you can make your therapeutic journey more focused and fulfilling, particularly in stress management.

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