Yoga for mental health...

What do you think about when you hear the words ‘mental health’? Maybe you think about all those news reports and the scary statistics that seem to be at an all time high or maybe you find yourself thinking about a family member or a friend thats having a hard time. But what if we changed the words 'mental health’ to ‘mental wellbeing’, do the connotations change? These two words in fact are synonymous, we all have mental health or if you’d rather mental wellbeing and we all have a duty to ask ourselves- are we doing things that contribute positively or negatively to our overall health and wellbeing. 

Am I getting enough sleep?

Am I setting aside enough time to do things that I enjoy? 

Am I giving my body the things it needs? 

All these interlacing components are important in keeping our bodies and minds happy and healthy.

How can yoga contribute to a happy mind and body?

Sleep: Sleep is more than simply closing your eyes, laying down and hoping for the best, it’s paramount in helping our internal systems repair and rejuvenate. When we suffer through interrupted sleep or brains cant do the necessary things it needs to in order to keep our bodily functions running smoothly such as our motor skills which effect things like digestion, memory retention and pain perception.

We know how important sleep is and how hard it can be to switch our brains off. In our hour yoga sessions we give you the opportunity to let the days worries and complexities go and help you focus inward so that you can clear the mind and open the senses in a relaxed and safe environment.

Meditation: Meditation is increasingly becoming more popular as a method for stress and anxiety reduction. It has been proven that two minutes a day of meditation can promote positive emotional health, reduce symptoms of stress and anxiety, enhance self awareness, lengthen attention spans and reduce age related memory loss. 

We offer guided mediation during our yoga session where we can help you identify the spiritual and the emotional, the mind and the body. We encourage you to assess how each is feeling from start to finish with focus and thoughtfulness.

We interviewed our very own super volunteer Sian who is on her own personal mental wellbeing journey. Here she talks openly about yoga being an important part of that journey.


What challenges are you working with?

I was diagnosed with cyclothymia with a form of bi-polar. I can rapidly cycle between Hypermania and Depression through the day. When I am having a manic episode I can go days without sleep, this is caused by racing thoughts and feelings, quick boredom and a need to keep myself moving at all times which sometimes involves pacing for hours. I needed a form of exercise that wasn’t high intensity, that could settle my mind and encourage focus. I started coming to your class with the hope that I could give myself an emotional rather a purply physical outlet and I couldn’t have hoped for better results. I found that not only during but after the class my mind was no longer screaming at me. I’m able to sit still, listen to instruction and focus. The energy of the teachers and the other students allow me to feel calm settled. After the first couple of classes I found that I was tired and able to sleep for a number of hours without interruption. At first I thought it was a fluke but after a number of weeks of joining your classes my sleep pattern was transformed which had a positive effect on my mood disorder. I found with the right amount of sleep I was having less hypersonic episodes.

Describe our classes?

Sometimes I can come in feeling chaotic, like I’m bursting to the brim and when I leave I have a sense of a settled emptiness. On the flip side I have come to your class feeling anxious and low, and when I leave I feel like the emptiness has been filled with this lovely warm energy, making me feel whole. 

I can also admit that I feel uncomfortable with free flow movement, I naturally hold myself in a tensed and strained manner having spent time focusing on this in class I now find I’m able to identify the stress that has built up in my muscles and I’m able to let it go. I think this is a form of mindfulness. Usually you just assume that mindfulness is just about your emotional state but you forget that your emotional state can also be seen and felt thought the body and muscles. 

What results are you seeking of getting from yoga? 

I think doing yoga is like going on a journey, its about connection and energy and breath. Most of the time I’m in a rush to get somewhere or do something but I leave class with this wonderful sense of time stretching to my whims. My breath is slower, my movements more purposeful and my mind open. I want to feel that all the time. 

Calling all Students…

We call out to university students …

For many, university is that first step on a long and uncertain path. You leave behind the comfort and familiarity of home and family, the financial stability that came before and step into a whole new you. And, while the experience can be exciting - the prospect of making friends, the adventure of traveling, the exploration of the person you are and the person you would like to be, it can also be an extremely daunting time and nothing quite prepares you for it. Recent studies have shown that one in four students in the UK suffer from mental health issues and further studies have shown that 26,000 students studying for their first degree do not make it past the first 12 months - this statistic is steadily rising. Here at MahaDevi Yoga Centre we have been working closely with local university students in the hope that we can be that hour of calm that helps you through your day to day challenges.

What can Yoga do to help?

Yoga encompasses everything from the mind to the body and those bits in-between like our hearts and souls. It teaches and instructs us to focus inwards, helping us to strengthen our core and engage our muscles, to encourage us to move with gentle fluidity and purpose and to embrace the calming effect of mediation. It’s an opportunity to declutter the mind and rejuvenate the soul.

We have interviewed Stapleton House and UCL student, So Ching, who join our Hatha Yoga class weekly...

 So Ching - Stapleton House Resident, 2017/18

So Ching - Stapleton House Resident, 2017/18

What problems and challenges is yoga helping you solve?

I spend a lot of my time in my room either studying or on my computer or on my phone. I know I need to exercise and I do want to exercise, I think strengthening the body is important but I find exercise hard and boring. With Yoga I find it doesn’t feel like normal exercise. It’s gentle and slowed paced which makes it easier, especially when I’m too tired to actually come to the class. I also know how important the focus of breath is, I particularly enjoy that part of the class where we focus solely on the breath.

How does yoga make you feel?

I really enjoy challenging myself, I like to try the slightly harder poses for example the sun salutation. When I started a class I felt shaky and unsure of how to do it properly, but now my poses have improved immensely and that makes me feel really good, like I’m strengthening my body.

How do you feel when you leave the class?

I look forward to the class because of the way I feel when I leave. I leave every class feeling satisfied, happy and relaxed. Sometimes I arrive feeling demotivated but when I leave I feel as if I’m energised.

How do you feel about your progression?

In Hong Kong I did yoga but not consistently or on a regular basis, but now that I am I feel proud of myself because I’m constantly improving. I think to reap the rewards of yoga you have to keep at it because the benefits are long term. I’m always really happy to do yoga here, the experience is always really fulfilling, it’s so calm in the studio and everyone is happy which is infectious no matter how your feeling.

Is there anything you have gained that you didn’t expect to gain from yoga?

My confidence. Joining your classes I found myself gaining confidence and now I don’t feel embarrassed or worried to try new things in your class. I can see how far I have come and how much I’ve improved and now I enjoy challenging myself.