Yoga for mental health

Yoga for mental health

4 ways to boost mental health and inner resilience. By Gopala Amir Yaffa

Life sucks sometimes. I experienced depression during Covid-19, with all of the extra pressure, stress and inability to plan for the future, and have been taking antidepressants too. There is no shame in that. I think that one of the best tools we have at our disposal is to try to put things in perspective. This will not last forever. Both you and I have been through tough times before and we are still here...and we are stronger and wiser for it! It will be the same this time. It is tough now, but we will grow because of it. As we work our way through our challenges, here are four ways that I believe can help all:

1. Movement
This is an easy one for yogis to understand. Movement is life. When we stop moving, we start sending our body the message that we don’t want to live. Movement is mood-enhancing...and yoga is a great way to get moving! Throw in some deep yogic breathing exercises, or pranayama, and you have a great way to start building up your inner resilience to stress. This is a great place to start for those under stress.

2. Mindfulness
Mindfulness can help a lot in creating the distance necessary from our thoughts and emotions to be able to process events in a healthier way. We are obsessive thinkers and we get attached and fully identify with every thought and feeling that arises inside of us. Even though those thoughts and feelings are impermanent, and they change rapidly, without mindfulness skills we can be totally consumed. Being able to observe our thoughts and feelings, and identify them, gives us more power in how to deal with them. Knowledge is power. When we don’t know our inner world we are controlled by everything that rises and falls within it. Mindfulness can be a daily opportunity to take a step back from being caught in our thoughts, find respite from this storm, see the big picture and land back into ourselves with more self-compassion and awareness.

3. Play
When we get so stuck in our minds, we are so heavy sometimes! We really need to lighten up and play. Fun can help shake us out of our darkness and bring us back to the light. This is something we can learn from our children! A few years ago, for my 40th birthday, I took some time away for self-nurture, traveling to Peru to spend a month with the shamans in the Andes.

The most influential teaching I took away with me is the idea that maybe there is not ‘good’ or ‘bad’ in our lives, rather, there is only ‘heavy’ and ‘light’, and that we can dispel the ‘heaviness’ by bringing in more ‘lightness’.

This is a fantastic idea! Folks, it’s time to get serious about playtime!

4. Sense of purpose
I think this is a big one for mental health. There comes a time when we ask ourselves “what for?” If we don’t have a good answer for this, we are lost.

I recommend reading the book Man’s Search For Meaning by Victor Frankl, a holocaust survivor and psychologist. He claims that the only people who survived the concentration camps were ones who could find meaning even in that darkest, inhuman place.

When we fill our lives with mostly meaningless tasks, like scrolling through TikTok, life starts to feel a bit empty. When we can be of service to others, however, it gives us a greater sense of purpose. Finding a purpose or a meaning, a ‘why’, no matter how big or small, is essential for our mental health. It may not be obvious at first, but start to give it some thought and try talking to others about it; maybe ask them what is their ‘why’.

Gopala Amir Yaffa is the founder of Rainbow Yoga (

Yoga for mental health

Om Magazine

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