Why is yoga good for mental health?

Updated: Jun 8, 2019

Woman in Stress
Stress and Mental health

What is Mental Health?

Health is overall well-being. Mental health is psychological well-being which largely depends on emotional and social aspects which are determined by how one thinks, feels, reacts to a situation, interacts with others and making choices. When psychological well-being is disturbed by emotional and social aspects, mental health issues take place. Mental health is not just the absence of mental disorder.

World Health Organisation defines Mental Health as:

"... a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community."

What causes the Mental Health Issues?

The Mental Health issues may be caused due to:

  1. Biological Factors like Genetics, infections, brain defects, Brain Injury, prenatal damage, substance abuse, poor nutrition and exposure to toxins.

  2. Psychological Factors like trauma suffered as a child including physical, emotional and sexual abuse, early loss of parents, neglect, poor ability to relate to others and the like.

  3. Environmental Factors like death, divorce, dysfunctional family life, feeling of insecurity or inadequacy, anxiety, low self-esteem, anger, loneliness, changing job or school, jobless situation, business loss, social expectations.

What are the examples of mental health issues?

  • Anxiety & Panic Disorders.

  • Bipolar Disorder.

  • Depression.

  • Eating Disorders.

  • Schizophrenia.

  • Substance Abuse & Addiction.

  • News & Features

These are some examples of mental health issues.

Who are the most susceptible and what are the early signs?

Experts say Mental health issue can affect anyone at anytime during her/his life time, irrespective of her/his age, gender, ethnic group or economic conditions. The incidence of mental issues is higher in developed countries than in underdeveloped countries.

It is not easy to predict who is going to be suffered by mental issues. However the following signs may considered as an early indication.

  • Withdrawing from people or activities

  • Eating or sleeping too much or too little

  • Hyper-reactive

  • Using more drugs, alcohol and nicotine than normal

  • Thoughts like harming self and others

  • Hearing Voices

  • Delusion

  • Inability to complete normal standard tasks.

What are the treatments available?

The available treatments are:

  1. Psycho therapy: A psychological approach in treating like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, Exposure Therapy and the like.

  2. Medication: Medication can improve the prevailing condition though it could not cure it altogether. Side effects could not be ruled out.

  3. Life Style modifications: Life style changes such as having right amount of sleep, food, alcohol, routine exercises, yoga postures, breathing techniques and the like.

What are the harmful therapies?

A study in Oxford Research Encyclopedias (Ref.No:5) states that:

Although psychotherapy is on balance effective for a broad array of psychological problems, a relatively small but steadily accumulating body of evidence suggests that at least some psychological interventions are harmful. Until recently, however, relatively little research attention has been paid to the identification of harmful psychological treatments. Although it has long been recognized that a nontrivial minority of people become worse following therapy, this finding does not necessarily mean that they have become worse because of therapy. Nevertheless, recent research has homed in on a small subset of interventions that may produce psychological harm, physical harm, or both. In addition, there is growing interest in pinpointing potential mechanisms of deterioration effects in psychotherapy, as well as in distinguishing harmful therapies from harmful therapists.

A recent clinical research (Ref.No:6) conducted reveals that

The derived factors were: symptoms, quality, dependency, stigma, hopelessness, and failure. Items related to unpleasant memories, stress, and anxiety were experienced by more than one-third of the participants. Further, increased or novel symptoms, as well as lack of quality in the treatment and therapeutic relationship rendered the highest self-reported negative impact. In addition, the findings were discussed in relation to prior research and other similar instruments of adverse and unwanted events, giving credence to the items that are included.

From the literature furnished above, it is evident that the prevailing treatments are not risk-free.

How yoga can help?

The study published in the Journal Of Alternative Medicine (Ref.No:7) in 2010 concludes that

The studies comparing the effects of yoga and exercise seem to indicate that, in both healthy and diseased populations, yoga may be as effective as or better than exercise at improving a variety of health-related outcome measures.

Another study published on 08.04.12 by D. Vancampfort, University Psychiatric Centre Catholic University Leuven, Campus Kortenberg, Leuvensesteenweg 517, B‐3070 Kortenberg, Belgium (Ref.No:8) concludes that:

Although the number of RCTs included in this review was limited, results indicated that yoga therapy can be an useful addon treatment to reduce general psychopathology and positive and negative symptoms. In the same way, HRQL improved in those antipsychoticstabilised patients with schizophrenia following yoga.

A study by Hartfiel N, Havenhand J, Khalsa SB, Clarke G, Krayer A ( Ref.No:9) concludes that

results show that even a short program of yoga is effective for enhancing emotional well-being and resilience to stress in the workplace. We suggest that employers should consider offering yoga classes to their employees.

A study by Amy C.Bilderbecka et all concludes that (Ref.No:10)

Yoga may be effective in improving subjective well-being, mental health, and executive functioning within prison populations. This is an important consideration given the consistently high rates of psychological morbidity in this group and the need for effective and economical intervention programmes.


Now we learn that Yoga can help reduce stress and contribute to the overall well being. Though it can not be used as a sole therapy for complicated mental health issues, it can be used as an adjunctive therapy. Yoga can be helpful to those who have early signs of mental health issues and who are prone to develop. Yoga helps a normal healthy person to maintain his overall well-being during his life time.



  1. Causes of Mental Illness

  2. Medical News Today

  3. Harmful Therapies

  4. CTV News: Schizophrenic Man Starts Empowerplus vitamin therapy, stops his antipsychotic medication, and murders his father 3 weeks later

  5. Oxford Research Encyclopedias: Psychology: Potentially Harmful treatments

  6. Negative effects of Psychological Treatments: An explanatory factor analysis

  7. The health benefits of yoga and exercise: a review of comparison studies

  8. Yoga in schizophrenia: a systematic review of randomised controlled trials

  9. The effectiveness of yoga for the improvement of well-being and resilience to stress in the workplace

  10. The participation in a 10 week course of yoga improves behavioral control and decreases psychological distress in a prison population.

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