How Yoga Eases Life's Challenges

Yoga therapist, Celia Hirsch, explains why – and how – yoga is so beneficial for mental wellness. SPACE is a yoga studio partner for MHA's Get On Your Mat For Mental Health.

The Mental Health of Westchester's Get On Your Mat For Mental Health  mega-yoga event is being held on Wednesday, June 20, 2012 outdoors on Court Street in White Plains at 5:30 pm. Registration is open at www.mhawestchester.org/onyourmat

Yoga is an invaluable therapeutic tool because of its broad range. Since it has become so popular, more people are familiar with the physiological benefits that lead to long, lean muscles, freedom in the joints, and more stable bones. Eventually through the breath, imagery and concentration it becomes clear that the benefits transcend into other areas of the body including mental efficiency, emotional stability and increased neurological functioning.  

Yoga is a Sanskrit word that means “union”, it was created specifically to join and unite all the aspects of our lives. Even though it is an ancient practice, it is extremely relevant today as it relates to our internal functioning. Through the practice of asana, you learn to align, fold and twist your body in order to achieve complex poses but that requires learning how to navigate internal spaces.  Our culture encourages the opposite, we are an externally driven society, which has served us well but has taken a toll.  Many people complain of feeling disconnected and out of touch, the antithesis of the integration that they crave.

In order to do yoga successfully, it is imperative to acknowledge that there is a learning curve and that the postures take time to master not unlike learning to speak a new language. The mental and neurological benefits of language are very well documented. In a yoga practice, you learn to learn. Through learning the most efficient placement of joints and muscles, you learn to track mentally which uses previously unexplored areas of the brain. The sense of achievement encourages motivation and incentive that results in positive thinking.

Any discussion about yoga is not complete without including the use of the breath. As it relates to mental health, the benefits are endless. There are as many breathing patterns as there are yoga poses and when they are mastered the result is stability, integration and a sense of well being. The breath is the gateway to our internal world without which we are incomplete and unbalanced. The more familiar we are with the workings of our mind, understanding the ins and outs of our emotions and the role that our neurology plays the more in control we feel, the more empowered we become and the more easily we can breathe in light of all our challenges.

Celia Hirsch is a yoga teacher and yoga therapist who has just opened a new studio in Bedford Hills, SPACE/Pilates,Yoga & Beyond.

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