Yoga for Emotional Health

Does it ever feel that your emotions are a slippery slope to navigate? It can be a challenge to piece together all that is going on in and around you. Emotions have deep and recent roots that may not be easy to distinguish. Yoga practice provides the opportunity to examine the mind, body and spirit through physical poses (asana), breathing techniques (pranayama), and meditation. This practice is accessible to you, regardless of your age, skill set, flexibility or location, by using a chair or a mat.

Psychologist Dr. Barbara Vosk, will share excerpts from her article Yoga and Psychotherapy (to be published in the NC Psychological Association Newsletter). She will be speaking about this topic on April 14 at YogaFest NC ( Dr Vosk discusses research and examples of yoga practice which demonstrate the effectiveness of this life science in healing psychological disorders.

Yoga for Mood Management

Researchers have found that yoga practice can have positive impact on dealing with anxiety and depression. Jon Kabat-Zinn, the creator of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, utilizes yoga in the program. More psychotherapy practices are integrating mindfulness and yoga into treatment. Recent studies suggest that yoga practice has positive effects on brain chemistry to dampen anxiety and depression. This can occur by raising the levels of preferred neurotransmitters as well as suppressing the arousal response often associated with stress and anxiety. Restorative Yoga directly impacts the parasympathetic nervous system, which evokes the relaxation response. Several books provide practices that are beneficial for depression (Weintraub, 2004), anxiety (NurrieStearns, 2010), and emotional balance (Forbes, 2011). Yoga teachers with advanced training can also provide guidance for relief and management of mood disorders.

Yoga and Trauma

For individuals with PTSD, yoga is being promoted as an essential component of effective therapy. Yoga provides a process for patients with PTSD to focus on their physical and sensory experiences, increase self-awareness, manage physiological arousal and take effective action. Dr. Richard Miller has developed a yoga-based program called iRest to treat returning veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan. The Department of Defense has funded his research and successful treatment of veterans. Dr. Miller has expanded this protocol for use with other populations and teaches these techniques to therapists and yoga teachers.

Yoga in the Therapy Room

If a therapist has experience with yoga practice, s/he may find it more natural to encourage a client to move into postures that directly impact emotional states. Physical poses can assist in feeling more grounded, energized, or contained. The therapist should be sensitive to observing changes in breathing and body positioning. Learning different breathing patterns can help clients manage their symptoms more effectively. These strategies can be integrated with more traditional psychological treatment approaches.

Yoga has been proven to improve health. Take the time to explore simple techniques that can improve your quality of life.