HOW YOGA SAVED ME
Where to start…
My first ever yoga class I remember really enjoying shavasana even though I was in a smelly room with people I didn’t know. It was a ‘real’ yoga studio and my best friends were convinced I wouldn’t be able to lay still and be quiet that long. The thing is they had their reasons as the term ‘monkey brain’ was something I could relate to. I was ALWAYS thinking. But for the first time I felt I had nothing to do but breathe.
Flash forward a few years, and I was facing the worst depression of my life – yoga saved me.
Around September of 2010 I was starting to feel off. I noticed my memory slipping and my excitement and joy for life diminishing in a way that was overwhelming. It felt like all systems in my body were shutting down.
I had been withdrawing from social activities and neglecting to nourish myself, and I wasn’t sleeping – that is when things really got bad. Though I was restless, I had to be coaxed out of bed because I was a mess and most days skipped showering. I had reached out to several therapists and doctors, but nothing was helping me. My anxiety had become so debilitating that I could not focus on anything for more than a few minutes and I did not know how to slow down the racing thoughts.
I even sat in the back of a church one day praying that I would be saved from this darkness. It was so hard on me, my husband, friends and family – we felt helpless.
I was taken to the Emergency Room twice for suicide attempts, and hospitalized for over a month – most of which was spent in bed. No one knew what to do with me. I had become very quiet and withdrawn, barely speaking a word to anyone, eyes hollowed – lost in my own mind.
I was prescribed so many different concoctions of anti anxiety and antidepressants that now I was 40 pounds’ overweight, lethargic, had a face full of cystic acne, and was still struggling to make any sort of connection with myself or others. I had become a shell of the person I once was. Needless to say I went through hell and back.
People talked about me as if I was dead.
A specialist that had knowledge of hormonal related depression got me off of the ridiculous concoction I was on, and helped me wean off prescribed medicine all together. She knew I was being over medicated, especially since I did not have a history of taking any medicine for depression.
Around the same time, my best friend started to encourage and drag me to yoga classes – just to stretch and breathe. It was about all I could do. I really only went to see her and eat after since that was about the only thing that still brought me some sort of happiness.
I was definitely not very present in those classes comparatively, but somehow just being in a studio and stretching and breathing around others was helping. I started to go on my own taking higher level classes and my strength increased, and my size decreased. It felt SO good to move and stretch and breathe and sweat. Slowly I started coming alive again; building up emotional and mental strength as well. The physical, mental and spiritual connection yoga tapped me into allowed me to heal and grow once again.
It felt SO good to move and stretch and breathe and sweat. Slowly I started coming alive again; building up emotional and mental strength as well. The physical, mental and spiritual connection yoga tapped me into allowed me to heal and grow once again
Currently I teach yoga full time, and am working on sharing my story of healing with my students. For now, I choose to stay anonymous because of the stigma that surrounds mental health issues. I am a private person that does not want to be labeled as someone with a ‘mental illness’. I know this may sound hypocritical, but unfortunately we live in a world that is highly over medicated and judgemental. Recovering from this entire experience has been difficult, and these types of labels would make things even more so.
Now that I have put this horrible chapter to rest, it has become more and more apparent that there were warning signs for this depression, and I have learned a lot more about myself, and how my mind, body and spirit work together. I have learned to listen my intuition more whether it be deciding to take on a new project with work, or a new relationship. I learned that it is OK to say no and not to stretch myself too thin. I now know it is necessary to take breaks and time for myself to relax, reset and recharge. I’ve learned that while I am very outgoing and social, I am an introvert that needs plenty of alone time and quiet to process and digest the constant flurry of tasks and experiences life throws my way. I have learned that while you can be strong physically, your mind must be strong as well.
© Alegría Pictures
Quite honestly I still work hard to stay positive every day. I live with a lot of shame surrounding this time of my life, and still carry about fear that it could happen again. We all have a choice when we wake up to make it a good day or a bad day; you can see the gloom and doom or choose to focus on the things that make you happy like the sun shining or a warm cup of coffee.
I believe that knowledge is power, and that yoga is a necessity for anyone living with anxiety and depression. While medicine and talk therapy can be great pieces of the puzzle, yoga allows a whole body/mind approach. Yoga allows the individual to notice when their thoughts are going ‘off track’ and how to become an observer of the thoughts instead of letting them take over. Being able to sit with your own mind body and soul is a powerful and transformative tool for healing, processing and growing.
If anyone out there is feeling low or anxious, please go and find a smelly yoga class – it might be just what you need.
The author has been practicing yoga for over 6 years and teaching for 2. She trained with master trainer Meghan Currie and has participated in various yoga workshops focusing on depression and anxiety. In addition, she is trained through Corepower and is always seeking out new ways to communicate a message of positivity to her students. She enjoys teaching vinyasa, power and yin classes at various studios in the United States and hopes to enroll in a yoga therapy program in the next 3 years.
To BE well I focus on the positive as much as I can, and take plenty of time to relax and reset. My intuition guides me, and I stay away from negative behaviors and people with a negative outlook on life. I take time to nourish my body, mind and soul through food, yoga, and surrounding myself with loved ones.