Among many other issues, the benefits of yoga for mental health are possibly the most sought-after for practitioners. Personally, I took my first yoga class hoping to lift myself from a cycle of depressiveness. While I had no clinical diagnosis, my mood swings affected my life to such a degree that I searched for ways to alleviate those effects. Now, studies conducted to see if there is any evidence that yoga has a positive benefit for mental health show that my instinct was not off-base.
In fact, many studies have been conducted on the subject of yoga benefits for mental health. Apropos of my own experience, preliminary findings suggest yoga can be used as a complement to the treatment that depressed patients who are taking anti-depressant medications are receiving. In another German study, yoga was found to help ameliorate the symptoms of people suffering from a general distress and stress-related diseases. In an early study, yoga postures to affect the vagus nerve show promise in helping to treat epilepsy, stress and post-traumatic stress disorder. A 2007 study shows that yoga practice is associated with increased brain GABA levels which is relevant to depression and anxiety-related disorders. This study was corroborated by a 2010 study of yoga and GABA levels showing a positive correlation of yoga practice with increased levels. A compilation of studies out of Mumbai collates several studies in India of the positive benefits of yoga on mental health.
There is much research out there looking at the benefits of yoga on mental health. Almost all see that more work needs to be done to firmly establish the ways yoga can positively affect our mental state. A competent and experienced teacher is critical to safely using yoga to treat any health issue. Back when I began yoga to help my anxiety and stress, I found it helped with that. But it also helps with so much more.