How yoga can aid mental health

In the final week of our Mental Health Awareness campaign, we’re taking time to focus on self-care and prevention. Here, Shirley Scott, a yoga teacher based in London tells us how yoga has helped her and others stay healthy.

Hello! I’m Shirley, a professional yoga tutor and I want to talk about how yoga can help improve overall health.

Mental health conditions affect many of us, 1 in 4 adults and 1 in 10 children and young people in the UK each year.

I teach a specific type of yoga known as ‘iyengar’, one of the many forms found in the yoga spectrum. Iyengar yoga calms the mind through movements and breathing exercises. The aim is for an overall balance mentally and physically. The advantages include strengthening muscles, improving posture, increased flexibility, helping recovery after illness and the relief of lower back pain. Students are often surprised at how challenging iyengar yoga can be, those who persist stay on to attain the benefits.

Shirley performing Uttitha Trikonasana, triangle pose, one of the basic standing poses in Iyengar Yoga

This year, World Mental Health Day 2017 focused on mental health in the workplace. I teach some of my sessions at NHS England (London), proving that yoga can be available to fit around anyone’s working day.

Yoga can be universal.

Exercises found in yoga are practiced by celebrity figures such as Jennifer Aniston and Gwyneth Paltrow; it is an act that trains the body effectively. In turn, anybody can engage and benefit from iyengar yoga, as evidenced through one of my previous students being 90 years of age and in sheltered accommodation. Iyengar yoga poses are transferrable to any situation and can be adapted in order to achieve the desired results.

I have had students experiencing mental health issues that have improved as a result of iyengar yoga strategies.

In turn, my class engage in a 10 minute period of relaxation to finalise the session. Mindfulness is essential for maintaining a healthy lifestyle and is an important strand of a regular yoga practise.

Shirley teaching her regular iyengar yoga class

The method of relaxing is to aid the mind to encourage better sleep and enforce a refreshed, positive mental attitude. The aim is for individuals to notice improvements in themselves and become aware of the strengths of their body and mind. It is not competitive and does not exceed the limit of the body’s natural capabilities.

I certainly would advocate yoga to be introduced into lifestyles as a form of self-care.

To access advice on mental health, please see our webpage via


I’ve been going to yoga classes since my late 20’s, now recently turning 70 and teaching the art of yoga, I can say through personal experience that it is life changing. Once I started practising yoga over 40 years ago, I wanted to tell everyone about the benefits; I’ve been teaching for over 20 years now.