Does yoga help your mental health?

As we welcome Mental Health Awareness Week 2020 we thought there was no better way than to ask the Yoga Kula community if yoga has helped their mental health. This is what they had to say…

Kate Wolstenholme:

Kate WolstenholmeYoga has been the answer to much in my life, not least my mental health. I’d always had low self-esteem which manifested itself in self-destructive patterns of behaviour. I also never had that inner sense of self that we all need to feel at one the world and those around us. I wanted to do so much but was often prevented by a nagging voice telling me I couldn’t etc. I tried counselling over the years – some more successful than others… but nothing really helped. I knew the problems and the reasons for the problems – not much use if you can’t do anything to change those behaviours and thoughts though.

Yoga seemed to present itself to me, rather than the other way round. It really helped me when I started University and I felt “drowned” as all my structures had been removed – in fact it helped so powerfully and quickly I was on a total high after a few weeks. I didn’t have the tenacity to keep up and so it became something I just thought about and didn’t do. Just over 3 years ago I was diagnosed with a life-changing illness. A couple of other huge life changes have happened since – things I could have got really down about. It was after the diagnosis that I started attending Yoga Kula classes regularly. It’s hard to put simply, but I’ll try:

My Yoga practice gives me a sense of perspective, no matter what the problem it seems to allow me a wise insight that alleviates any unnecessary suffering, for me or others. I finish a tough day, I’m in a dark mood, I get on the mat and breathe… and within seconds I feel better. And when I move into postures I gain strength and vision. Recently meditation has become a central element to a deeper and more expansive understanding. One Yoga teacher at Kula says that for her, the Yoga really starts “off the mat”. I think this is so true, it’s had a profound and positive impact on my life. It’s like a really good friend who always makes you feel better and gives you a sense of perspective you hadn’t thought of. It takes you out of yourself and then back into yourself. It’s given me a deeper respect for my mind and body. Drinking would sometimes be a quick way to feel good, though the anxiety and hangovers weren’t so pleasant. Whilst I still really enjoy the odd glass of wine, I’d much rather start my Saturday mornings fully awakened in a Yoga class, looking out at the sun and knowing I’ve begun my day in the right way. I’m a much more stable, pleasant and happy person than I was before. Those negative thoughts are dealt with through my Yoga – it’s taught me I’m strong and equal to anyone.

Amy:Amy Bott

Yoga has helped me and my mental health in so many ways…

Knowing I always have a safe and calm place to go to whatever is going on. This quote sums it up well for me;

“Within you is a stillness and a sanctuary to which you can retreat at any time and be yourself – Hermann Hesse.”

Breathing techniques have always helped me with anxiety and to keep me anchored in the present moment. I especially like alternate nostril breathing for helping me when I feel stressed.

Yoga nidra has helped me massively when dealing with periods of change in life when I can struggle with sleep. I was so relieved when I came across Nidra as I felt refreshed and rested for the first time in a long time.

It’s also been great meeting other people interested in yoga. This has helped me feel part of a community and been hugely supportive.

Claire Brodley:

Claire BrodleyYoga has saved my mental health.

I look to my practice time and time again in challenging periods of my life as a way to remember what matters and that we are part of something bigger than our cares, worries and fears.

Pre-lockdown the Kula studio was the place I ran to when I needed to come back home to myself – for a soothing Hatha, a revitalising Restorative class or the moving meditation of Ashtanga that would make my problems appear almost solved after that hour on the mat.

Now I’ve created my own little sanctuary in my spare room, only consisting of my mat and props, and this space of yoga and meditation has quickly become my favourite place to be. Once I’m on the mat, wherever the mat is, there are no more to-do lists, no pressures, no competitions or things to achieve in every area of life. Instead, there is self-discovery, relaxation, freedom. That said, I can’t wait to be back in the warm, comforting space that is Kula, which for me feels like walking into a big hug every single time 😊



Dee Cowburn

Yoga has saved me lots of times, through life crises such as losing my mum and then when my baby was diagnosed with a life limiting condition, yoga stopped me falling
through the floor, and gave me and continues to give me a really healthy framework of movement and meditation that creates a sense of peace and well-being in my life despite external challenges and I honestly find myself more content than I’ve ever been as it guides me to a place of authenticity and keeps me there. It’s just quite frankly a magical thing to do and it’s a gift that just keeps on giving. Whatever you put in you get out, and I would say it’s a crucial part of protecting and sustaining my mental health.
Emma McGovern
Yoga helps my mental health in so many ways; it has literally saved me from post- natal depression in the past, so it is a very important part of my life. It helps me be present in the here and now and it has helped me listen and tune into myself. Yoga has given me a connection to so many wonderful people who share a common love of moving in time to the breath; connecting their mind and body as one. Without yoga I would be lost!
Bethany Rose
I’m Beth, I’m the operations co-ordinator at Yoga Kula – I think I’ve met most of the YK community, however if you aren’t sure who I am I’m the colourful-haired one behind reception in the studio, and you may have spotted me popping in at the start of your YK live classes as tech support!
I came to yoga in 2015, after almost a decade of struggling with my mental health and a number of diagnoses. Despite this, due to a lack of funding I’ve been unable to access much support in the traditional routes, and the support I did have was very limited. Just over 5 years ago, I decided to do something about it myself. I tried running, I tried drawing, I joined the gym, and eventually I found yoga. It took 6 months of continuously attending classes, before I was able to settle and stay for a full class, and relax into my body without my mind taking over. I would regularly leave sessions part way through, but sticking at it and knowing there was no pressure to do anything that didn’t suit my mind on any given day allowed me to slowly let my practice into my life. In 2017, I found Yoga Kula and my practice became even more important in my recovery, because I now had an incredible and supportive community of yogi’s around me who completely understood where I was in my process.
Everyone’s body is different, holding tensions and traumas in different ways in different parts of the body. I learnt to accept that there is no “right way” practice yoga, but as long as you’re doing what works for you and your body, that’s yoga!
By no means has my practice “cured” my mental health struggles, but what it has done is provided me with a toolbox of calming, anxiety reducing, and breathing techniques which I can use to support my health, and allow my body to feel whatever is happening on any given day, and walking through the studio doors every day into such a wonderful community is a very special kind of magic and something I’m really honoured to be a part of.