The practice of yoga needs no introduction. It doesn’t matter what part of the world you live in or how old you are, if you’re interested in fitness, chances are that you’ve tried yoga at some point. While the ancient practice has been around since 5,000 years in India, over the last decade or so, the power of yoga has spread across the globe like wildfire. This is because it is a holistic form of exercise--the benefits of yoga are physical, mental and spiritual. And while the regular practice is known to improve flexibility and strength, there are also plenty of benefits of yoga for mental health. So if you’re someone who’s particularly interested in the mental health aspect, we would highly recommend you join a studio and talk to your instructor about yoga for mental health.
However, since we’re currently living in the times of a global pandemic, going to a studio might not be the best option for you. Instead, we would encourage you to try these yoga asanas for mental health from the comfort of your home. All you need is a fitness mat, comfortable clothes and a spacious corner in your house--and you’re all set to practice some yoga exercises for mental health.
If you’re a beginner, Vajrasana is a great asana that you can do without any difficulties. This pose has mental health benefits like improved focus, calmness and better digestion. Here’s how to do it:
1. Begin by sitting on your knees, stretch your ankles outward, bring your thighs and calves together.
2. Sit back on your feet and place your palms on your knees.
3. Breathe in and out slowly but deeply for 30 seconds to a minute.
This pose might look hard but is actually pretty easy once you start practising it every day. This is a great posture for meditation and is supposed to have a calming effect on your mind as well as improve your mood. It also helps your digestion and spinal strength. If you’re looking to practice yoga for anxiety and depression, you should do this asana every day. Here’s how to do it:
1. Start by sitting cross-legged.
2. Then, lift one ankle and keep it above your opposite thigh.
3. Place it as close to the hip as possible, do the same with the other ankle.
4. Place your palms on your knees, keep your back straight.
5. Close your eyes and focus on breathing deeply.
This is a very popular balancing yoga posture, and it helps centre your body as well as your mind. Here’s how to do it:
1. Stand straight with your ankles flat on the mat and your spine straight.
2. Then, lift one leg and place it on the inner thigh of the other leg.
3. Once you find your balance, fold your hands into a namaste, and breathe deeply.
Popularly known as the ‘warrior pose’, this asana is great for focus and strength. It’s a power pose and will help improve your mood and better your mental health. Here’s how to do it:
1. Stand up on your feet, spread your legs wide.
2. Turn your hips to one side, and turn your ankles to the side you are facing.
3. Bend the front leg to a 90-degree angle.
4. Stretch your arms to your sides and breathe in deeply.
This is another great pose for flexibility, balance and calmness. Regular practice of this asana relieves anxiety and stress and helps calm the mind. Here’s how to do it:
1. Start by standing straight and keep your hands by your sides.
2. Extend your hands above you and bend your torso forward as you exhale.
3. Keep bending and bring your hands to rest on the ground next to your feet.
4. Hold the pose for 30 seconds, and breathe deeply.
Also known as the ‘downward dog’, this is a popular yoga pose and also features in Surya namaskar. If you’ve started practicing yoga for anxiety, this is one asana that you should do every day, as it combats anxiety and energises the body. Here’s how to do it:
1. Get on your hands and knees.
2. Now, slowly raise your hips, pressing back on your ankles.
3. Balance your weight equally between your arms and your legs.
4. Hold the pose for a few minutes, and then slowly come back on your hands and knees.
This asana is known to greatly improve your flexibility, centre your mind and reduce anxiety. Here’s how to do it:
1. Sit with your legs stretched out in front of you.
2. Inhale and lift your arms over your head, extending your spine.
3. Exhale and extend your torso over your legs.
4. Rest your head just beyond your knees as your hands hold your feet. Hold the pose for a few seconds.
Also known as the ‘circle pose’, this asana can be a little tricky to do if you’re a beginner. However, keep practising it regularly, and it will help you with calmness and focus. Here’s how to do it:
1. While standing, place your arms high above your head.
2. Keeping your back straight, bend backwards.
3. Do this slowly and till your palms reach the floor behind you.
4. Keep your ankles firmly on the ground.
5. Hold the pose for 30 seconds or as long as you can, and slowly come back down again.
Also known as ‘child’s pose’ this is an extremely popular asana and is often done after a strenuous pose because it helps relax the body and calm the mind. Here’s how to do it.
1. Sit in Vajrasana with your hands resting on your knees.
2. Then, extend your arms above your head, and then bend forward.
3. Rest your arms completely on the floor, and let your body relax for as long as you like.
If this is your favourite asana, then you’re not alone! Because Shavasana is such a relaxing pose, most people end their practice with it. It is possibly the best asana for those who turned to yoga for stress relief. Here’s how to do it:
1. Lie down on the mat on your back.
2. Your palms should be facing upwards, and let your fingers be relaxed and slightly bent.
3. Relax each and every part of your body, close your eyes and concentrate on your breathing.
4. Stay in this position for as long as you like.
While these were our top 10, there are plenty of yoga exercises for mental health. However, doing these 10 asanas every day will make a big difference in making you feel calm, centred and relaxed. So grab your mat and get started!
Featured Image: Gulf News/YogaHolism