Mental Health Awareness Week: Integrating yogic techniques and physical activity for mental well-being

The mind and body are intricately connected, each influencing the other in many ways. As we navigate through life, the stresses and strains of daily life can take a toll on our mental health. However, research increasingly shows the efficacy of integrating yogic techniques and physical activity to promote holistic mental well-being.
The past few years have been particularly challenging for mental health worldwide, with the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbating existing issues and giving rise to new ones.According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the economic loss due to mental health concerns is projected to reach a staggering 1.03 trillion USD between 2012 and 2030. In the face of such daunting statistics, it becomes imperative to explore innovative approaches to mental health care.
Combining physical activity with meditation-based interventions offers a promising avenue for enhancing mental well-being. These two modalities, when integrated, can work synergistically to offer various compared to utilizing either approach alone. Yogic techniques, rooted in the Indian knowledge systems, encompass a wide range of practices including asanas (physical postures), pranayama (breath control), and dhyana (meditation). Numerous studies have demonstrated the profound impact of yogic practices on mental health, with benefits ranging from stress reduction to improved mood and enhanced cognitive function. Incorporating meditation interventions and breathwork helps cultivate a state of inner calm and promotes emotional resilience, thereby empowering individuals to better cope with life’s challenges.Similarly, engaging in regular physical activity has been shown to have significant positive effects on mental well-being. Whether it is brisk walking, jogging, swimming, or participating in team sports, physical exercise releases endorphins, the body’s natural mood elevators, leading to feelings of euphoria and relaxation. Moreover, regular exercise has been linked to reduced symptoms of anxiety and depression, improved sleep quality, and enhanced self-esteem.

How yoga elevates overall well-being

The integration of yogic techniques and physical activity hinges on the complementary nature of these practices. Meditation-based interventions inherent in yogic practices encourage a non-judgmental awareness of one’s physical sensations and emotions, enabling acceptance and self-compassion. This mindset can facilitate engagement in physical activity by mitigating feelings of self-consciousness or inadequacy, thus promoting adherence to an exercise regimen. Conversely, physical activity enhances the sense of accomplishment and self-efficacy, reinforcing the benefits derived from yogic practice.
Non-pharmaceutical meditative protocols, integrated with traditional Indian knowledge systems, offer a holistic approach to mental health care. By harmonizing the body, mind, and soul, these protocols have been shown to reverse depression by a remarkable 72%, providing hope for those grappling with this debilitating condition.
As we observe Mental Health Awareness Week, let us recognize the transformative potential of integrating yogic techniques and physical activity in promoting mental well-being. By embracing these practices in our daily lives, we can embark on a journey towards greater resilience, inner peace, and fulfilment. Remember, true well-being begins from within, and by nurturing our minds and bodies, we pave the way for a brighter and more vibrant future.
(Author: Dr Ishan Shivanand, a mental health researcher and the founder of Yoga of Immortals)


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