Impact of Yoga on mental health

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By Dr Karthiyayini Mahadevan, Head, Wellness AND Wellbeing, Columbia Pacific Communities

How does yoga help in mental well-being?

In these challenging times imposed by COVID-19, many people have lost their lives, lost their loved ones and the news of death in close quarters has brought tremendous insecurity in most of people. Nothing seems to be guaranteed, neither the beds in hospitals nor the availability of medicines, and not even the basic existential oxygen for survival.

Adding to these challenges, there are hardly any personal connections through physical meetings. A sort of loneliness similar to a vacuum is felt in which one can attract any emotion, and either get stuck with those emotions or work with the inner self positively.

How to refine the mind through yoga

Yoga has its roots in the word “Yuj” which means “union”. This is brought about through the union of the physical body and the mind through breath. Yogic scholars say yoga is the spiritual aspect of Ayurveda, while Ayurveda is a therapeutic branch of yoga. Yoga brings about mind-body transformation. Yoga has eight limbs or Ashtanga. These are Yamas, Niyama, Asanas, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi. Yama and Niyama are preludes in the path of yoga wherein one’s attitude to society and to one’s self are practised. Asana and Pranayama are practised at the physical level to prepare one for attaining a higher state of consciousness through mastering the senses and transforming the mind.

Sage Patanjali in yoga sutra provides us with the differences in the Citta (modern science calls it mind), ways to examine its contents, source of activities, how to refine it and reach higher levels of awareness.

In the past, yoga practices were a part of daily rituals and was a way of life in India. Yoga is a physical, mental and spiritual practice that has its roots in India. Our Prime Minister Sri Narendra Modi, in 2015, during his UN address proposed that June 21, which is the longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere, be observed as International Day of Yoga and it has since been celebrated worldwide.

Yoga practices for the health and well-being of elders

Among the eight limbs of yoga, Asana and Pranayama are practised physically. Dharana and Dhyana are practised as meditation in various proportions by people of different age groups. For elders, it is advised to practice more of meditation through visualisation and chanting mantras, moderate pranayama and appropriate movements leading to asana within one’s individual capacity. These will contribute to a calm state of mind.

Conclusion:

Regular yoga helps to transform the mind in stages. While quietening an agitated mind, it also refines and stabilises it. This helps in making one capable of influencing others in a positive way and in becoming an empowered person.

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