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Managing Negative Mental Health through Yoga

By Arun Goel

Mental health disorders are on the rise throughout the world. This results in anxieties, fears, depression, inferiority and similar emotions. Therefore, learning the management of negative mental health is a must for all of us.

Yoga offers comprehensive solutions for managing this negative mental health.

Before discussing how to manage, we must understand the genesis of negative conditions in the mind. According to yoga, all negative emotions take root from the matter present in the subconscious. But how does this matter enter the subconscious?

The basic cause of this is attachment. We humans develop attachments to persons, things or emotions. This attachment raises desires and expectations. These desires ultimately lead to tensions, frustrations and conflicts. This affects the ego, which feels insecure. As a defense mechanism, the ego represses such emotions into the subconscious so that the mind is peaceful again.

However, these repressions are not dead. They are after all repressed feelings. They remain active in the subconscious resulting in the negative emotions we talked of earlier – anxieties, depression, aggression and fear.

Therefore, the solution lies in preventing the build up of such repression in the subconscious and then also addressing the existing repressed garbage to gradually take it out of the system.

The yoga way

Yoga has techniques of ‘Pratyahara’ that work both as a preventive and a curative. ‘Pratyahara’ literally means dissociation or withdrawal of sensory awareness from the external world (Swami Niranjananda, 1993).

In this, the practitioner is guided to become a ‘witness’ to the inputs and the workings of the mind. By sitting quietly or lying down, you are encouraged to internalize all your awareness to observe the happenings by detaching the ego or the ‘I’.

The specific ‘Pratyahara’ techniques include Antar Mouna, Yoga Nidra and Ajapa Japa. These techniques work both as a preventive and a curative.

At the preventive level, they interrupt the mechanism of repression and so restrict the rubbish that goes into the subconscious. By developing the witness attitude, the ego becomes detached, so it does not feel insecure. As a result, the need for repression goes away. Hence, the subconscious is not fed with the negative thoughts and this prevents build up of anxieties.

At the curative level, the mind is internalized and encouraged to play with its own contents. As the thoughts get provoked up into the conscious level, the deep repressed impressions come up. These are again witnessed without ego attachment. As a result ego does not feel insecure and the need to repress these impressions does not remain. As a result they are NOT sent back for recycling at a later date. Instead they are thrown out of the system for good.

As such impressions are progressively thrown out, the mind gradually becomes unburdened and forms a clean ground for fresh positive thoughts. This results in mental quietness and peace.

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This article is based on my understanding and interpretation of the paper written by Shri Siddhartha Bhushan of Bihar Yoga Bharati. The paper titled ‘Pratyahara Practice as a Method of Managing Negative Mental Health’ appeared in Yoga magazine of Sivananda Math, Munger, Bihar, India – Year 2, Issue 3.

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