“Yoga is a method for restraining the natural turbulence of thought, which otherwise impartially prevents all men, of all lands, from glimpsing their true nature of Spirit. So long as man possesses a mind with its restless thoughts, so long will there be a universal need for yoga.”
– Paramahansa Yogananda
Breanna McCubbin knows first-hand the power of yoga to improve mental health.
“I found yoga at a time in my life when I wasn’t doing a lot, and it helped me become more energized and more focused,” says McCubbin, today one of the owners of Bikram Yoga Red Deer.
Studies exploring yoga generally and Bikram yoga specifically, have pointed to the power of the practice to improve mental and emotional wellness, including support for depression and anxiety, notes McCubbin. Not only does yoga encourage the release of endorphins, but studies suggest Bikram yoga also increases the serotonin levels, which works to regulate mood, appetite and sleeping cycles.
The research seems to be borne out in experience. Of those returning to Bikram yoga after a time away, “most people I talk to are coming back for mental health reasons,” McCubbin says. “Your body feels great after a class and your mind gets such a fantastic workout as well.
“Once you do it enough, you don’t have to do it anymore, you want to do it.”
- Reduce stress – We know exercise supports health and wellness, from weight control and muscle toning to support for conditions like diabetes and blood pressure, but it’s also vital for stress management. “There’s a reason we say, ‘You come for the vanity, you stay for the sanity,’” McCubbin says.
“Before I saw changes in my body I saw changes in my day-to-day mindset. I woke up feeling more energized, clear-headed and focused instead of foggy and tired.”
- Develop resilience – “You need mental and physical toughness in life,” McCubbin reflects. “Bikram always talks about the five aspects of the mind – faith, self-control, determination, concentration and faith.”
Yoga can be a vital tool to help you develop willpower, and the determination to keep going and try, try again, she adds. “You begin to see that in fact, yes, you can and you will. You believe in yourself again – you are WORTHY.”
- Improve focus – In our busy, ever-moving world, it takes practice to develop focus – free from external distractions, restless thoughts and emotional upheaval. Because yoga requires you to focus on your breathing, balance, muscles and movement, the improved focus naturally follows. “It’s the power of concentration,” McCubbin says.