Your Brain On Yoga – Yoga for The Mind

by Rene Hawthorne | August 5, 2018 11:28 pm

 

Yoga is holistic discipline and it teaches that nothing is wholly physical and that nothing is entirely mental. It emphasizes the unceasing interplay between mind and body. Anyone who has ever tried to change an ingrained habit knows how hard it is to reprogram the simplest reflex. Yoga techniques work on the interaction between mind and body to achieve changes on the physical and the mental level.

Yoga as Therapy

Yoga practice is also for the mind, for such things as mental illness, anxiety, panic attacks, stress, burn out and depression. The key is getting the mind to work for you not against you. In yoga teachings we learn about the 3 States of the Mind or The Gunas.

We learn the more you have certain thoughts or thought patterns the more often you return to these thoughts. Mental samskaras are like grooves in a muddy road, they get deeper over time and neuropathways become stronger and connect specific brain cells called neurons. Thus, you are more likely to continue this pattern again and again. Before you can change a pattern you must see it clearly by consciously tune into your inner dialogue.

The Gunas – 3 States of Mind

Tamas:
Tamas causes dullness and heaviness through its power to obscure. Its nature is heavy and dense. Tamas is primarily immobilizing: tamasic foods are lifeless, stale, or impure; tamasic entertainment is mindless and intoxicating. Tamas leads to inaction when action is required. Each of us has experienced the binding power of tamas – the appeal of lethargy, procrastination, and sleep.

Rajas:
Rajas is the energy of change. It is distinguished by passion, desire, effort, and pain. It may act positively or negatively. But it is most often characterized as restless, unsteady, agitated, and unhappy – prompting change for change’s sake alone. Rajas also binds us to attachment, to the fruits of action, and to sensory pleasures of every kind.

Sattva:
Sattva is not enlightenment itself but clarity and peace as it unveils what is true and real. It shows itself as beauty, balance, and inspiration, and it promotes life, energy, health, and contentment. Cultivating Sattva by making choices in life that elevate awareness and foster unselfish joy is a principal goal of yoga.

All three gunas are always present in all beings and objects surrounding us but vary in their levels. We have the unique ability to consciously alter the levels of the gunas in our bodies and minds. The gunas cannot be separated or removed, but can be consciously acted upon to encourage their increase or decrease. A guna can be increased or decreased through the interaction and influence of external objects, lifestyle practices and thoughts.

5 Mental & Psychological Benefits of Yoga

1) Yoga improves your psychological and mental well being by discharging tension and stress and soothing the mind.

2) Yoga helps with anxiety and depression. Activities such as relaxation, meditation, socialization and exercise are proven to be helpful in reducing anxiety and depression.

3) Yoga boosts memory and improves concentration. By removing the static noise in your head and focusing your mind in yoga you’ll find that you’re able to remember things, concentrate and perform much better.

4) Yoga prevents the onset of mental health conditions. Better anger control, improved resilience and enhanced mindfulness are just some of the many factors in prevention of psychological conditions.

5) Yoga reduces the effects of traumatic experiences like abuse, grief, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are a few examples.

Psychology and Yoga – Yoga as Therapy

Yoga acts as an intervention because it helps us direct our attention to the breath and unhook us from our thoughts, emotions and impulses that are negative and destructive.
The act of attending a yoga class and moving and breathing in synchrony with others can increase our sense of belonging, of being part of something bigger, which increases cooperation and collectivism. Yoga helps strengthen social attachments, reduce stress and relieve anxiety, depression and insomnia. Yoga is also used to help treat veterans with PTSD.

Yoga really helps change people at every level. Yoga is a tool people can use outside of psychotherapy as a compliment to healing from emotional wounds. There are times when you just need to get moving and work through the body. Yoga targets unmanaged stress, a main component in chronic diseases, by lowering the sympathetic nervous system and reducing the levels of cortisol. Yoga enhances resilience and mind-body awareness.

 

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Endnotes:
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