Enjoyment of Yoga

I know exercise is one of the most important ways to support my health.  Therefore, I might as well enjoy it – and I enjoy doing yoga!  There are so many kinds of yoga: vinyasa, or flow yoga; alignment-based yoga, including Iyengar yoga; Bikram or hot yoga; restorative yoga; Yogahour; and many more.  With so many options, I believe that every person can find at least one style of yoga that is enjoyable for them.  This is important, because research shows that doing enjoyable things can improve your mood, thereby bettering your mental health.

Dattilo, Kleiber and Williams (1998) explain how enjoying an activity can help people improve their wellbeing.  The process includes the following steps:

  1. Self-determination. This means being able to make choices and decisions on your own behalf.  Self-determined people take control of their freedom (perhaps by choosing to go to yoga class!).
  2. Motivation that comes from within.  In other words, doing things because you want to, instead of doing them because you’re getting paid, getting a grade, or because someone else wants you to.  When I do yoga, it’s because I’m motivated by my own desire to practice.
  3. Feeling challenged.  In order to lead to enjoyment, the challenge has to be manageable.  If it’s not challenging enough, then the activity will be boring.  If it’s too challenging, then you will want to give up.  When a challenge uses all your skills but still feels doable, then it’s just right.  In YogaHour classes at Maha, doable yet difficult is the goal of every pose!
  4. Giving your full attention to what you’re doing.  When you make a choice to do something, feel personally motivated to get it done, and it is challenging but doable, then you become absorbed in the activity.  You begin to create goals and look for feedback.
  5. Enjoyment of the activity.  When you enjoy what you’re doing, you are concentrating, putting in effort, and you have a sense of control and competence.  This leads to…
  6. Improvements in wellbeing.  You feel better when you’re enjoying what you do.  Feeling better can help you to take control of your life and make more decisions for yourself – in other words, have more self-determination!

This theory can help explain research by Raedeke (2007), who found that people who enjoy exercise got a bigger mood boost from it.  They had more positive feelings (e.g. happy, excited, enthusiastic) than people who did not enjoy the exercise they were doing.  These positive feelings help support mental health.

The best news is that people who enjoy yoga might get additional mental health benefits over other kinds of exercise.  Berger and Owen (2013) compared yoga to other exercises (swimming, body conditioning, and fencing).  People who took a yoga class had less anxiety, tension, depression, and anger.  So, do what you enjoy – especially if you enjoy yoga!

Mental Health Spotlight provided by Katie Pizziketti in collaboration with the Temple University Collaborative on Community Inclusion of Individuals with Psychiatric Disabilities. 

The Temple University Collaborative receives funding from the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR grant number #90RT5021-02-00). NIDILRR is a Center within the Administration for Community Living (ACL), Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). This article does not necessarily represent the policy of NIDILRR, ACL, HHS, and you should not assume endorsement by the Federal Government.