Yoga: It's mental

I think most of us have personally or know someone who has battled with some form of mental health condition. Its endemic in Western society; apparently Denmark, one of the most developed and supposedly ‘happiest’ nations in the world, has the highest use of antidepressants.


Through my own experience of attempted suicide, and an eating disorder (not something I have ever shared), and coming from a family of alcoholics and drug addicts, is that most of us tread the tightrope of life with the constant possibility that one day we may topple and it doesn’t take much to slip. Stress, overwork, increased use of social media and comparing ourselves to others, living in cities and becoming disconnected from one another and nature and so on and so on. The list is endless, modern life manifests causing discontent and ultimately mental illness in us as individuals. Obviously there are varying forms of mental illness but it can strike us all at anytime.  My experience of a close friend; a strong, intelligent, outgoing young man, sectioned from a sudden traumatic episode, revealed how sudden and how extreme can be this fall from supposed ‘normality’. Also how ill-equipped the in-patient mental health departments in the NHS are, and how we should so make our mental health a priority (before how we look) to avoid such an experience.

Yoga shifted my outlook, mindset and has transformed my experience of life. And this is the thing; the problems and struggles which we encounter and which can all affect our mental health for the worse will remain – it is life. But if we can shift our perspective, we can really alter how we see the world and how we experience life.


I grew up a highly sensitive and shy child, always feeling different and inferior to everyone else. Through age, experience, but a gradual shift in awareness largely due to the spiritual journey that yoga takes you on, I have managed to create more confidence, acceptance and harmony.

This self-created suffering has been my gift, has been that which has spurred to study, myself, yoga, and more importantly to teach and help others.  I still get low, and sink into despair but it is short lived and through the physical, energetic and philosophical practices of yoga I change.

Yoga for mental health
  1. The asanas (postures) help move the body which is proven to help increase feel good hormones (dopamine, endorphins, serotonin, and oxytocin) and release tension
  2. Breath work (pranayama), relaxation and meditation are practices found in most yoga classes and activate the parasympathetic nervous system which reduces stress hormones (cortisol), improves sleep and consequently improves mental health
  3. The philosophical route of yoga reminds us that we are part of something bigger than ourselves, universal energy/consciousness, which can help in reducing some of our fear and resistance to our life circumstances
  4. As we are all energy, how we are thinking or feeling creates our experience. If we can just work on improving our energy, through practices like yoga or whatever lights our fire; dancing, being in nature, singing, artwork etc., we can feel good and we become powerful energetic magnets for more positive energy in our lives
  5. Going through this journey, the ultimate path of yoga is to recognise that we are One, with the Universal Energy, or the Divine.  As the late great Wayne Dyer said, “we are spiritual beings having a human experience.” If we can recognise this, we realise we are not our thoughts, or pain.  The real ‘us' is something bigger, and infinite than that.  We can let go of limiting beliefs, fear and doubt and move towards a life of purpose, freedom, and joy

Sama is a yoga teacher and founder of bhuti – our eco wellbeing escape in Richmond London. ‘bhuti’ means wellbeing in Sanskrit and is a little haven where you can enjoy a range of classes including yoga, workshops, treatment, therapies, and organic feel good food, seven days a week.