Written by Kenedy Beebe, WSU Public Health Senior
Mental illness is something that affects 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. according to the National Alliance on Mental Health. Mental illness can be debilitating for those living with it so it is important to find healthy coping methods. In recent studies conducted by the Journal of Applied School Psychology and the International Journal of Yoga there is an obvious link between yoga and improvements in mental health. Five key ways yoga helps alleviate the symptoms of mental illness include: increasing awareness, increasing the attention span, inducing a calming effect, challenging acceptance and adaptability, as well as offering a sense of security.
Senior nursing student Elese Osterberg is the Intramural Fitness Class Coordinator for WSU as well as a fitness instructor. After practicing yoga for over four years, she has seen first-hand the benefits that yoga has to offer, not only within herself but in her students and fellow yogis. In an interview with Osterberg, she explained how she initially discovered yoga, how it has benefited her mental health, and how it has the potential to benefit yours!
Q: How did you become interested in yoga?
A: I found yoga after deciding not to play basketball my senior year of high school. The first class l took was at the Rochester Athletic Club (RAC) in Rochester, MN. I didn’t know much about yoga when I first started, but I have learned so much since then!
Q: How does practicing yoga benefit your body and mind?
A: Yoga has so many benefits! Physically, it allows you to strengthen a variety of muscles through different poses. A big component to practicing yoga is building stability through the core. Having a strong core aids the body by: reducing risk of injury, improving balance, and increasing respiratory function. In addition to the physical aspect, yoga improves the mind by allowing you to release stress, learning to cope and deal with challenges (i.e. balancing on one foot) and connecting with yourself on a different level.
Q: How do you think mindfulness and practicing yoga benefits your mental health? Could you elaborate on your personal story?
A: In terms of mental health, I think yoga is a wonderful option for anyone. If you are someone with anxiety, some poses calm down the central nervous system, which reduce stress and calm the mind. In contrast, there are some poses or styles of yoga that focus more on the cultivation of energy which would be a great option for someone with depression. On a personal note, I was diagnosed with PTSD a few years ago after a traumatic experience from complications following surgery. Yoga has helped me tremendously in gaining back physical strength, and has also been a wonderful outlet for me to process any negativity or angst.
If yoga is something that you have any interest in, I highly suggest trying a class in Winona. If you are a member of the WSU staff or student body, Osterberg’s classes are every Monday and Wednesday at 7pm located at the Integrated Wellness Center. Otherwise, Muddy Waters Yoga, Winona Family YMCA, and Infinity Yoga Studio have classes of varying degrees of difficulty.