After a yoga class many people often share that they feel relaxed, calmer and sleep better afterwards. Similarly, I was speaking to a taxi driver, who wasn’t into yoga himself but observed that he always saw people smiling when they came out of a yoga studio. When else do you ever get an hour to yourself, where you don’t need to be anywhere “but here”.

If joining a yoga class can have these positive effects you’d like to think everyone would be doing it, either joining a class at a local yoga studio, following an on demand yoga class or streaming a live class online.

One of the challenges with articulating the impact a class can have, is that it can be dependent on so many variables –

  • How were you feeling before the class?
  • Was the style of yoga ‘right’ for you
  • Were appropriate modifications given for you
  • Did you like the teacher?
  • Were you made to feel comfortable in the class environment?

Yoga and Mental Health

Yoga poses are not in themselves the reason why people generally have a positive feeling after a or (or any other style of for that matter).

Perhaps anxiety and stress can be caused by feeling out of control and unable to influence or control the situation you are in, or think you are in.

Throughout our yoga practice, whatever style of yoga you try or enjoy, a major focus of a yoga sequence is to be present at that moment. This is, in part, achieved by combining yoga poses, with breathing and the gaze; not forgetting the engagement of the bandhas. With so many things to concentrate it’s not surprising that you don’t have the ability to think about other things in your life.

The majority of any class is spent focusing on various yoga stretches, breathing and gazes. When you get to the final pose, Savasana, you should be at the point of relaxation. Even if you are pressed for time, please do try and stay through the Savasana. Even if you can’t stay until the end, make sure you stop early and take 2 minutes releasing the muscles on your own. It’s so important to allow your body to “absorb” the benefits by being still.

In this respect, yoga provides a moving meditation, helping us stay in the present moment – not worrying about what happened in the past or what will happen in the future. Some may call this yoga mindfulness.

Does Yoga Help With Anxiety and Stress?

Practicing yoga for anxiety or stress in itself is unlikely to be the sole cure for people trying to deal with these issues – but I believe it will certainly help.

Allowing yourself to step on the mat for a yoga class for a period of time, and to finish with a savasana, helps take yourself away, albeit briefly, from the issues that may be causing the stress and anxiety. In your state of relaxation you may even find a perspective you haven’t considered before.

Meditation is yoga

Whether it is during the class or outside the class, meditation is the tool for calming the mind. During class, it comes in many forms:

  • Beginning of class to ground ourselves
  • During the class when focusing on your  breathing
  • In Savasana (the final reclined pose)

It can also be done on it’s own. Start off with a few minutes and work towards extending that time each day. Meditation is one of the best habits to start!

Looking after your mental health

Remember – yoga isn’t about the poses (and posts on Instagram) it’s a dynamic meditation that helps clear the mind through movement, breathing and gaze

A is one way to remain present, mindful and conscious of our thoughts and feelings. As you practice more, hopefully more of the calmness, wellbeing and queues to remain present help you off the mat.