How Yoga Eased my Depression and Anxiety

I started attending yoga classes at the end of this past July. I’ve always wanted to take a class, ever since my girls were small. I can remember “discovering” yoga in my old two bedroom home- trying desperately to pose in the living room, and failing miserably; trusting that Denise Austin would take pity on me through the television screen. Yet she only smiled and posed with perfection on her mat in Hawaii with palm trees swaying behind her.

The palm tress moved with the wind, bending gracefully liked a well-seasoned student.

I wanted to bend like that, like a ballet dancer with fluid movements and careful transitions. Instead, I fell, over, and over, and over again. I couldn’t be the trees.

Through the years I have visited yoga periodically. Like an old friend, I’d play catch up and delight in the refreshing feeling of stretching. After I’d have my way with her, I’d abandon her once again, swept up in whatever had my immediate attention. Children, or writing, or just life in general.

So I was excited to start a REAL class- somewhere I could be held accountable. Someplace that gave me the care and nurturing hand of a new mom, and yet the structure and direction of an experienced one. I was looking to be alive. I was looking for connection.

Yes, I was looking for a lot of things, only to find these needs stripped away- yoga has its own way of delivering things you didn’t even know you were looking for to begin with.

I found myself yearning for the mat in times of stress. The mat, a rectangle of trust, had become a safe haven for me.

When I’m on the mat, I can just be. I often find after practice that all of my “real-world problems” can’t penetrate my brain the way they would if I hadn’t stepped on the mat at all.

Yoga Is Therapy

During those first few weeks of yoga, if something came up amidst a posture- depression about the past, stress about the future, anxiety about the day- I would work through it by breathing. There were days when I wanted to leak tears all over the mat and collapse into pieces, but instead I prayed to release it. I surrendered everything within me to my purple rectangle, my circle of salt, my safe space.

I imagined that God had sent an angel to carry away this baggage, and then I’d take a deep breath and move into the next pose.

I’ve found that I’ve worked through so many mental problems, just by “being”.

Over the past month or so, I have had many mental (and spiritual) transformations, just by being present in yoga. I have been surprised in many ways how much I was carrying with me, and how much lighter I felt (and continue to feel) after my morning time.

Yoga helped me release my feelings of anxiety, teaching me that we need not be anxious about the future, but can instead focus on the present moment at hand.

Yoga helped me climb my way out of depression, and see that everything happens for a reason- that I don’t need to beat myself up anymore about what has happened in my life.

It’s helped me open my soul for growth.

The past few years have been…difficult to say the least. Dealing with Doug’s death, picking up the pieces during the aftermath (a process that is just now feeling healed), balancing homeschool and work, and having a another child have all been huge shifts in my life. Through it, I’ve been somewhat critical of myself, always thinking I need to be better, do better,

GET FUCKING BETTER!

And the depression was really starting to weigh on me.

Yoga has taught me that I’m perfect just where I am, the way I am. This isn’t a competition. I don’t want to punish myself. I can breathe and feel my way through this.

Before going to yoga, I would flip through magazines and see women in beautiful poses, doing things I only wished I could do. I criticized myself from the get-go, holding this image as someone that was better than me, more worthy, and more healed than I.

My teacher pointed out that we don’t have to achieve these postures to reap the benefits of yoga- whether or not we can do these postures doesn’t make us better or worse. Yoga just IS.

And she’s so right.

When I’m in my practice, everything melts. I’m feeling the benefits and it feels good…I don’t have to be Denise Austin.

I may still be a broken person, trying to find my own way in the life I have been given. I know I will still have struggles and criticism, and that I’m “winging it” in more ways than one. With my mat though, I know I can take one step at a time. I am healing, everyday, and I’M GOOD ENOUGH.

And you know what? All those years ago when I thought I was separate from the trees, I had it so wrong. I AM like the trees, like a ballet dancer, like a soft wind, and like a gentle touch.

I’m swaying in this dance of surrender, letting the breath move through me, letting myself go. 

Namaste.

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How Yoga Eased My Depression & Anxiety

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