We think of yoga as a practice that affects physical and mental health in positive ways. We also think of yoga as a spiritual practice. But yoga can also affect our emotions, though the emotional benefits of yoga may be easy to overlook.
We tend to label emotions—in this context, another word for feelings—as “good” or “bad.” We want to have good emotions, like joy, happiness, contentment, bliss, confidence, etc. Other emotions we’d prefer not to experience—emotions like sadness, fear, anger, and anxiety.
Whether we label them good or bad, emotions are basically thoughts that we feel in some way in our bodies. If we think something bad is going to happen, we feel fear or anxiety. If we think we are worthless, we feel sadness. We also feel sadness because of loss.
The Emotional Benefits of Yoga
Many times, it’s our inner response to something outside of us that causes emotions. So, one of the emotional benefits of yoga is the ability to be mindful of what we are thinking and feeling. We can recognize when our thoughts are causing an unwanted emotional response.
For example, we may be angry often. If we practice yoga and learn to be mindful, we will first recognize that anger is our signature emotion. Then we may become aware of a tendency to assume people are unkind or out to get us. A connection like that can help us understand our anger, which often allows it to dissipate.
The emotional benefits of yoga work on both the physical and mental levels. This is one of the reasons yoga is so powerful. It can change the way we think and the way we feel.
First, we can use yoga to change the way we physically experience an emotion. If we have a lot of anxiety, we can try a calming practice, such as gentle or restorative yoga. We can also do breathing exercises and meditations that reduce anxiety or help control anger.
If we feel sad, we may feel it as fatigue or an extreme lack of energy. In that case, an energizing vinyasa practice or a breathing practice like “breath of fire” may help.
Mindfulness and Brain Chemistry
Beyond this, yoga has other effects on emotional well-being. As mentioned, mindfulness meditation can help us become more aware of what we are feeling and how our thoughts are connected to our emotions. This awareness often has the surprising effect of reducing the impact of negative emotions.
Further, studies suggest yoga can change brain chemistry. Specifically, it may help boost levels of serotonin, a substance that regulates mood. A regular yoga practice can also help to boost endorphins, which contribute to an overall feeling of well-being.
Another one of the emotional benefits of yoga is its ability to build positive emotions. Not only do we feel better physically, but we often have the emotional benefit of connecting with like-minded people in a meaningful way when we practice yoga.
The emotional benefits of yoga are often a pleasant surprise to dedicated yogis. Many who begin a yoga practice for physical exercise, stress management, or spiritual enlightenment get the results they seek and more. Over time, they also become less sad, angry, or fearful as well!
Are you having trouble managing emotions? Maybe it’s time to roll out your yoga mat.