An individualized mind-body package for mental health

As psychologist Michael de Manincor, PhD, explains in this video (he starts at around minute 2), four of the main components of yogic practice are working with the

  • physical body (through asana);
  • breath (through pranayama);
  • mind (through practices including meditation, mindfulness, visualization, affirmation); and
  • cultivation of positive values like gratitude, compassion, kindness, connectedness, and purpose and meaning.

de Manincor explains that plenty of evidence indicates that the above components of yoga can benefit mental health, including concerns like anxiety and depression. We know from research in various fields that “working with the body helps, working with the breath helps, working with the mind…works, and the cultivation of positive values works.” But yoga, he continues, “is a system that brings them all together…It’s about working with the whole person, and the whole of our lives. And this is really powerful.”

Furthermore, he says, “Yoga works best when we develop a more personalized approach.” A truly individualized practice enables nearly everyone to access yoga. Although it’s common to attend general group classes, which certainly have benefits of their own, “Yoga has had a personalized approach for millennia.”

de Manincor believes that one key to the success he and his colleagues saw in a recent randomized controlled trial* is that the instructors, who worked individually with each study subject four times, were helping the students to cultivate a personal yoga practice. With 6 weeks of regular yoga at home—for an average of less than 30 minutes at a time, several days a week—these students’ depression scores decreased by 33%, anxiety decreased by 26%, and psychological distress went down by 34%. At the same time, scores on resilience, overall mental health, and flourishing increased.

“Developing the habit of a personalized yoga practice, something that works for you, opens up a whole range of possibilities for everyone—and every body,” says de Manincor. Find a yoga therapist to help guide your personal practice here.

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