10 Things to Know About the Psychology of Yoga

Yoga may not be a new term for you, but how much do you actually know about the practice? Yoga is an ancient practice that involves physical poses, impressive flexibility, concentration, and deep breathing. It originated in ancient India and is thought to be founded by Patanjali. Many consider him the “father of Yoga.” Centuries later, the life changing practice has since gained wide spread popularity and is now studied and practiced around the globe. Chances are there is a yoga studio not far from where you are now. 

Regardless of its popularity, the intention behind yoga practices has always remained the same – to align the mind and the body and promote the health of both. Yoga is deeply intertwined in human psychology, despite it being a physical activity. So how do deep breathing and poses focused on flexibility and concentration relax our mind? How is yoga related to our inner psychology? Let’s learn more. Here are 10 things to know about the psychology of yoga. 

Yoga practices embrace psychology. 

Yoga is an ancient practice that involves various physical poses. However, the practice is as mental as it is physical. Because yoga requires concentration and intentional breathing, the practice embraces human psychology. Instructors understand psychology is an important factor in yoga. When teaching a yoga class, a yoga instructor aims to “set the mood.” They may put on calming music, paint the walls a relaxing color, and make sure the thermostat is at the ideal temperature. They may also speak in a warm and inviting voice in order to promote safety. While yoga is a form of exercise and requires physical poses and movement, the practice is deeply intertwined in human psychology. Yoga instructors believe that entering the right mindset is the only way to successfully do the practice. 

Yoga is meant to align the mind and body.

According to Yogi Approved, “Psychology is defined as: ‘The scientific study of behavior and mind, including conscious and unconscious phenomena, as well as thought.” and “Yoga is defined as: ‘To completely know and be at peace with yourself. To connect, join, or balance.” After reading these two definitions, it is clear that yoga is a practice that is meant to align the mind and the body. Yogis believe that doing so can allow people to find clarity and start their emotional healing. When our minds and bodies work in time with each other, they become one and the benefits are endless. 

Yoga can allow people to be more present in life. 

Yoga can now be practiced in various forms. Yoga can be found everywhere:

-a group class in a studio,

-a guided YouTube video,

– a personal practice on your back porch,

-a session in your local park

And why is that? Well if you have ever attended a yoga class you likely understand why. Yoga is good for the soul. It improves your mood. It manages your stress levels. It allows you to be more present in your life. When you take a yoga class, yogis believe that you are exhaling out bad energy. You are leaving it all there on that yoga mat and doing so allows you to be more present in your life. 

Yoga can help with mental health disorders.

As mentioned, yoga is great for mood boosting. Stretching, breathing, and concentrating is great for everyone. However, yoga also has benefits for people with mental health disorders. Studies have shown that when yoga is used as a form of therapy, it can actually have a medical grade effect on psychiatric disorders and illnesses due to its ability to relieve stress and anxiety. Practicing yoga may be able to cure or relieve symptoms surrounding:

-Anxiety disorder
-Chronic stress
-Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
-Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
-Bipolar disorder

Yoga can be used for anger management.

If you are feeling angry, suppressing it only makes it worse. Instead, turn to yoga! One of the most impressive benefits of yoga is it’s ability to help people manage anger. Anger is a very natural emotion and we all experience it from time to time. Unfortunately for some people, anger is an actual mood disorder and unless they seek out anger management, their relationships can seriously struggle. Regardless of its severity or frequency, anger can affect people’s moods and health. By practicing yoga, people will learn to control of their anger and calm their minds. Yoga allows people experiencing anger to channel that energy into some more positive and ultimately break free of that hostility. 

Yoga has many extraordinary physical health benefits.

While the ancient practice of yoga requires concentration and a mental commitment during that time frame, the rest of the practice is physical. From intentional breathing to physical poses, your body is working hard during a yoga session. Because of this, yoga has many physical health benefits. While, yes, of course, you can strengthen your muscles, yoga has also proven to be helpful with serious physical health conditions. In many situations, studies have shown yoga to be just as, if not more, helpful than oral medicine! These conditions may include:

-Chronic pain-Arthritis
-Heart disease
-Back pain
-Carpal Tunnel
-Breast cancer

Yoga can make us strong and fit!

Just as yoga has a multitude of mental health benefits, it is also an incredible form of exercise. The practice can be done at home, in group classes, or in a private session. It’s is beneficial for people of all ages and body types. The ancient practice involves physical poses that promote:

muscle strength

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There are varying levels in yoga, from beginner classes to expert classes, and different forms of yoga altogether. A beginner’s yoga class may focus on stretching and simple poses such as “downward dog” or “child’s pose.” An advanced class may have participants doing poses such as “headstands” or “crow pose.” Yoga is an excellent way to strengthen your core, arms, and legs and lead a physically healthy lifestyle.

Regularly practicing yoga can improve sleep.

Yoga is considered a mediative practice because it combines attentiveness and concentrated breathing in time with it’s physical poses. Yoga takes exercise a step forward by involving total mindfulness. Because of this, yoga can provide a lasting calming affecting that can improve sleep. According to scientific studies from the Sleep Foundation, “over 55% of yoga practitioners report improved sleep and over 85% report reduced stress.” These studies took sleep patterns, quality, and duration into consideration. It is believed that regularly practicing yoga can improve the quality of sleep due to:

-Breathing awareness
-Regulated breathing
-Consistent exercise
-Weight loss 

Yoga instructors must become certified to teach.

Becoming a yoga instructor can be an extremely rewarding career. It can allow an individual to earn an income as well as help others to lead a more healthy and balanced life. Once a yoga lover decides to become a professional and wants to teach classes, it is up to them how far they want to take their education. The essentials steps include:

– deciding on a specific yoga style

completing a minimum of 200 hours through a school that follows the Yoga Alliance Guidelines

-applying for a RYT Certification

After these steps, the student is now the expert and they can go on to teach classes and earn an income. They may apply to work at a yoga studio, open their own studio, teach virtual classes, etc. 

Many yoga instructors decide to become CPR certified as well. While it is not absolutely mandatory, many health related facilities require it for professionals. It is a helpful tool regardless! 

Earning a college degree may helpful for yoga instructors.

Yoga is intricately tied to human psychology. It is a meditative practice first and foremost. It takes the human mind and emotions into consideration every step of the way. From the actual practice, to the environment in which it’s practiced in, to the long lasting mental affects, yoga is a psychological activity with many health benefits. Many colleges and universities around the world have added yogic degree programs to their list of options. These degree programs understand that yoga and psychology go hand-in-hand and combine both worlds. Some of the universities that offer these majors and degree programs include:

Loyola Marymount University: Master of Arts in Yogic Studies

You can find the program here.

Lesley University: Master of Arts in Mindfulness Studies

You can find the program here.

Naropa University: Bachelor of Arts in Yogic Studies

You can find the program here.

Related Resources: 

10 Things to Know About the Psychology of Exercise

20 Ways to Use Psychology in Everyday Life

Top 30 Affordable Online Psychology Degree Programs

Top 50 Online Psychology Master’s Degree Programs