Yoga For Mental Health

Dr Ishwar V. Basavaraddi

Samatvam yoga uchyate – “Equanimity is Yoga”

The World Health Organization defines Mental Health “as a state of well-being in which an individual realizes his or her abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.” 

Mental Health which is an integral part of human wellbeing connotes a holistic state of health – simply an amalgamation of cognitive, behavioural, and emotional well-being. WHO has included mental health in the Sustainable Development Goals realizing its importance in advancing towards Global Development Goals.

To think, perform, interact and enjoy life in all of its entirety one has to take care of both internal and external upkeep of the body. The path towards a balanced stage of psycho-physiological state of human existence is created when an individual focuses on ‘Self-realisation’.

 Mental Health In India

As per WHO’s mental health report of India, the estimated burden of mental health problems in the country is of the tune of 2,443 Disability-Adjusted Life Years (DALYs) per 100,000 population, and the age-adjusted suicide rate per 100,000 population is 21.1.

Image Source: Business World

By this estimation, in India, the economic loss, due to mental health conditions, between 2012-2030, is 1.03 trillions of 2010 dollars. As per the National Mental Health Survey report (2015-16) supported by Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India, “with changing health patterns among Indians, mental, behavioural and substance use disorders are coming to the fore in health care delivery systems. These disorders contribute to significant morbidity, disability and even mortality amongst those affected.”  

In addition, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has amplified the brunt of psycho-social problems like anxiety, stress and depression among the masses. This unusual condition has rattled the economic, social and personal situation of people burdening them with many mental disorders. 

Since it is believed that Yoga may play a significant role in the psycho-social care of individuals, as well as rehabilitation of COVID-19 patients in quarantine and isolation, the Ministry of Ayush released “Guidelines for Yoga Practitioners for COVID-19”.

Yoga For Mental Health

Globally, Yoga is getting popular as an accessible acceptable and cost-effective management practice for attaining the tranquility. Yoga is not just successfully alleviating the stress-related problems but is also effective in managing psycho-social problems like stress, anxiety, depression, sleep-related problems, aggression, poor attention, behavioural problems, and more. Last two decades have seen a surge of ample studies which support and accept the effectiveness and importance of yoga in the treatment and management of mental health problems. Yoga has immense power which empowers the people to self regulate their emotion, behavioural and cognitive process.

Yoga, when understood by its primal meaning, is inherently a science of spiritual development. The Gita defines Yoga as: Samatvam yoga uchyate meaning “Equanimity is Yoga”

The practice of Yoga, hence, aims to bring a person closer towards “Self-realization” by opening the conscience that helps us to achieve correct cognitions about the world. Patanjali Yoga Sutra follows the cognitive behavioural approach to existential disorders enlightening us of objective reality perception.

Maharshi Patanjali advocated five obstacles of mind called Panchklesh (पंचक्लेश) wherein Panch (पंच) means five, klesh (क्लेश) means obstacle. They are wrong perception (Avidya), egoism (Asmita), attachment bordering indulgence and entanglement (raga), antipathy (dvesa) and fear of death (abhinivesa), which shall be avoided in order to perceive our surroundings clearly and develop a healthy mind.

Yoga in practice helps to manage mental disorders when followed by a proper routine. In order to alleviate psychiatric problems like anxiety, stress, depression, and to overcome pain/sorrow following Yogic practices should be exercised:

  1. Yogasana: Practicing Yoga brings stability and lightness to the body by developing complete equilibrium of body and mind. It prepares the practitioners for the higher practices of Yoga while at the same time keeping an individual physically fit.
  1. Pranayama: This is the practice of breath control which helps to calm (& relax) the body and mind, bring stability while destroying the illusions – ignorance – unwanted desires and delusions of the mind. Most importantly, it balances the vital energy (Prana).
  1. Dhayana: Also called Meditation, helps to stabilize the mind while elevating concentration, awareness and will power. It also balances cellular and chakra energy developing one-pointedness at the same time improving memory and alertness.

4. Yoga Nidra: This is a state of awareness between waking and sleeping enlightened by a guided, careful meditation. A person in Yog Nidra goes into a relaxed state of consciousness while fully aware of his/her surroundings putting the mind in a blanket of the single-focused inner world.

Regular practice of yoga helps to manage the negative thoughts and emotions while developing resilience and self-esteem of a person. Taking care of mental health is important because an ill mind breeds a poor physical shell, therefore, this World Mental Health Day, it is paramount that we support and promote the cause of de-stigmatizing mental health-related problems and practice Yoga for a healthy mind.


(Watch) Morarji Desai National Institute of Yoga – Webinar on Yoga for Mental Health:

Yoga for Mental Health

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