The Mind Body Benefits of Yoga

Written by Elizabeth Miller, Lauren Houser, CRNP and Georgia Tetlow, MD

Stressed? Overwhelmed? Anxious? Incorporating a consistent yoga practice in your routine may help restore inner balance and make you feel more at ease. Whether it is being stressed from school, work, parenting or just the hustle and bustle of everyday life, it is important to take time to focus on ourselves. As a busy mom, my yoga class is literally the only time I have to myself all week. It is a time to be quiet and to really connect with my body. I always leave feeling refreshed, charged and a little bit lighter. As a healthcare provider and mother, it is my go to self-care practice! 

What is Yoga?

The University of Maryland Medical Center defines yoga as “a mind-body therapy that connects the body, breath and mind to energise and balance the whole person.” It uses certain movements or poses to strengthen and stretch our physical bodies while focusing on our breath to train our minds to be more still. It can be a great self-care practice that incorporates the mind body connection and physical movement. This can be restorative both to our emotional and mental health as well as our physical well being.

What are its benefits?

There are a multitude of benefits to practicing yoga including lowering blood pressure, increasing relaxation and self confidence, and reducing stress and anxiety. Clinical studies also show that it can help improve asthma, depression, addiction, diabetes and chronic back pain. 

What do I need to begin a regular Yoga routine?

If you are new to this concept, I would recommend trying a beginners or gentle yoga class with a certified yoga teacher. Most gyms, YMCA’s and local community centers offer these types of introductory classes for free or at a minimal cost. There is a yoga class for everyone- regardless of fitness level or ability. Many senior centers even offer chair yoga for those unable to ambulate! Dr. Tetlow taught yoga to spinal cord injured and stroke patients, as well as nursing staff when she was a resident physician. It is a great practice intended for everyone, not much equipment is needed and the cost is low!

How does Yoga strengthen my mind body connection?

It gets you in touch with your body though the poses, breathing and meditation. Doing this regularly will strengthen your mind body connection just like working out regularly will strengthen your muscles. It is a very effective way of activating the parasympathetic nervous system- which is our body’s relaxation, rest and digest state. Activation of the parasympathetic nervous system allows our natural healing mechanisms to turn on and is associated with lower blood pressure, pulse and cortisol levels. Yoga can be a key element in an integrative approach to wellness.