The practice of yoga is believed to have originated in what is now India. Traditionally, it was used as a meditation exercise, thought to promote relaxation, healing, and meditative prayer. However, one of the hallmarks of yoga is that it has been continuously adapted throughout cultures, as well as for differing needs. As such, its use as “yoga therapy” is based upon the use of yoga techniques in the form that would best suit a patient’s individual needs. Its focus on the connection between one’s thoughts and one’s physical state is perhaps the reason for its being adopted for many uses, and continually proving helpful: “It is believed that yoga practice enhances the connection between the mind and body, and it is used as a therapeutic intervention in a variety of diseases” (Cabral, Meyer, and Ames, 2011). Several recent studies point to yoga practice as an effective tool for improved mental health when used alongside therapeutic treatment.
Apparently, the practice of yoga can “…facilitate development and integration of the human body, mind, and breath to produce structural, physiological, and psychological effects” (Penguin Compass; 1999). Because of its focus on these things, it aims to help a person develop their body to be flexible, powerful, and untouched by pain. It also aims to create balance between all of the systems which function within the body, thereby promoting health of autonomic functions like digestion, breathing, and hormone regulation. Lastly, engaging in yoga practices should lead a person into a frame of mind which is relaxed and clear. All of these goals would ideally come together in helping the person at every level of his functioning, and improving his overall wellbeing.
No matter what yoga is intended to accompany, it focuses on particular body movements and positioning, as well as attention to one’s breathing and on maintaining calm and balance. For anxiety and PTSD, the yoga breathing exercises have been found to be especially helpful (Cabral, Meyer, and Ames, 2011). It has also been shown to be especially effective as a complementary therapy for those struggling with addiction, like smoking, alcohol, and substance use (Khannaa and Greesonb, 2013). Children and adolescents, too, can benefit from learning yoga postures, breathing and relaxation techniques. These have been shown to be effective when used alongside standard care for ADHD (and other attention problems) in numerous studies performed on children and adolescents (Kaley-Isley, 2010). Yoga has also been shown to be helpful for children and adolescents with anxiety and eating disorders.
Yoga classes are offered in-person across the US; a simple search can help you find one in your area. If a class setting is not your preference, another popular option is to hire a yoga instructor who will come to your home. An added benefit to this arrangement is the specially designed treatment for your particular ailments and level of ability. An even more budget-friendly option is to find instructional videos online. Whichever method you choose, know that you’re doing both your mind and body good!