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The Yogi’s Guide to Better Mental Health

Yoga Journal's first Mental Health Survey found that the majority of our readers reported increased feelings of anxiety and anxiousness. Here are some steps to help you reclaim a sense of wholeness.

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If the last 18 months have left you feeling more fearful, anxious, hopeless, or depressed, you’re not alone. Between a global pandemic, social unrest, extensive job loss, a dwindling economy, and more Zoom meetings than we could count, the past year and a half has been—let’s be honest—lousy.

Even as widespread vaccinations signal a turning point in the deadly coronavirus pandemic, its impacts are far from over, says the American Psychological Association (APA). “We’ve been concerned throughout this pandemic about the level of prolonged stress—exacerbated by the grief, trauma, and isolation—that Americans are experiencing,” says Arthur C. Evans Jr., PhD, APA’s chief executive officer. The APA’s latest poll shows the impact of this stress: 67 percent of US adults reported unwanted changes in sleeping habits since the pandemic hit, while nearly a quarter said they’re drinking more alcohol than ever to cope with stress.

Our first-ever Yoga Journal Mental Health Survey uncovered similar findings. The majority of readers reported increased feelings of anxiety (66 percent) as well as anxiousness (56 percent). The mental health crisis revealed in these numbers is likely to have persistent, serious mental and physical impacts for years to come.

Scads of research has shown that yoga, meditation, and mindfulness help with mental health issues and emotional regulation. But more than half of YJ readers said that in the past year, stress, anxiety, and depression have, at times, kept them from their practice. That’s understandable—sitting with your thoughts can be overwhelming when you’re feeling troubled. But remember: Even when it’s hard to do so, returning to our practice reminds us of our capacity for healing.

“Whatever experience is showing up for you, it doesn’t define who you are,” says leadership and Tiny Habits-certified coach Amit Raikar. “Challenges will come and go, but remember, at your deep authentic core, you’re already whole.”

To help you reclaim that sense of wholeness, we’ve put together this package, a definitive guide to mental health for yoga practitioners. While there’s no substitute for professional counseling (which only 36 percent of you were utilizing at the time of the survey), this guide—filled with the latest research, tips, and practices from psychologists and top yoga and meditation teachers—can help us all find a brighter tomorrow.

This story is part of Yoga Journal’s Special Report: How Yoga Can Improve Your Mental Health

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