Why Yoga Is Good For Mental Health, don’t just talk about it, experience it.

Why Yoga Is Good For Mental Health, don’t just talk about it, experience it.

Written by: Alexandra Spring

We need more than just mental health awareness. We need accessible, non-toxic interventions that both prevent issues and have some healing effect on the brain. Yoga may be one of these, which has been shown in many studies to relieve problems such as stress and anxiety. This is, of course, no substitute for leaving harmful situations for better ones, but yoga can help with stress resulting from study, high-performance careers, and life changes like relocating. The most common form of yoga outside of India is Hatha Yoga, which involves physical poses, such as Balasana (child’s pose),Vrikshasana (tree pose) and Trikonasana (triangle pose); and some breathwork and meditation.

Yoga For Stressed Students

Studying at high school or university can be the most stressful period of life, as a heavy workload is made more difficult by the large amount of new information we must learn in a relatively short time. For this reason, many mental health problems start here. Research involving 202 university students compared regular Hatha yoga practice to being on a waiting list control group, to see what effect it had. Both psychological distress and sleep quality significantly improved by the end of the 12-week yoga course, and these benefits lasted at least another 12 weeks at a follow-up consultation.

The researchers used the Hopkins Symptom Checklist-25 (HSCL-25) scoring system, where the answers across 25 questions are used to calculate an average between 1 (no distress) and 4 (extreme distress). A score of 1.75 is the cut-off point for moderate to severe symptoms. Students taking yoga classes saw their average scores fall from 1.74 to 1.65. While 60% had a score over 1.75 at the beginning, this fell to only 39% of students by the course’s end, and 34% at follow-up. These results are important because half of the disease burden among young adults in the developed world comes from mental health issues; preventing just half would spare millions.

When Students Already Have Depression Or Anxiety

Another trial looked at the benefits of yoga among students who were already diagnosed with depression or anxiety.Here, 90 students were assigned to either eight weeks of yoga practice,  mindfulness training, or a control group.

In the beginning of the study, their Beck Depression Inventory results were an average of 20, which fell to 9.1 after eight weeks and 8.7 at a follow-up. This scoring system has a total of 63 points; a score of 20 is in the “moderate depression” range of 19-29, while anything under 9.0 is minimal to no depression. As for anxiety, their symptom scores dropped from 21.2 to 14.5, and fell again to 13.3 at follow-up. They used the Hamilton Anxiety Rating Scale, where a score of 18-24 correlates to mild or moderate anxiety, and a score of 17 or less equals minimal to no anxiety.

Yoga In Depression

Depression is the largest cause of disability worldwide, affecting 4.7% of the world’s population. As a debilitating state of despair and perceived helplessness, we want to relieve this condition without negative effects, or prevent as swiftly as possible.

A study on 101 people with depression, anxiety, or both assigned them to either a six-week yoga course or a waiting list, with no change to the other treatment they were receiving at the time. After this time, shorter than some other studies, there was an average reduction in Depression-Anxiety Stress Scale (DASS) scores by 4.3 points. The DASS scoring system has a total of 42 points, making this difference significant. Anxiety scores fell by 2.53 points when adjusted. The average time spent on yoga practice was almost half an hour for five days each week, so it is important to do yoga regularly for mental health.

Yoga for Anxiety

Yoga has also demonstrated efficacy in anxiety on its own. A review of 17 studies with a total of 501 volunteers had the same findings, that regular practice of Hatha yoga significantly reduced anxiety. People with higher levels of anxiety when they started had stronger results, and efficacy was linked to the total number of hours practiced. This means that you would have better results from going to a yoga class once or twice weekly and taking on a shorter practice at home every day, than only turning up to class once per fortnight.


Overall, yoga can have amazing benefits for our mental health, whether it is prevention or part of our treatment plan. It is best practiced regularly, and results are expected to appear after several weeks, with more experience tied to stronger effects.

Towards Healthy Lifestyle