How Yoga will help your Mental Health?
You may be wondering just this?, or perhaps you’ve heard all the sensationalised success stories of “how Yoga has changed my life”. Yeah I know it all sounds a bit….well...you know….REALLY? As a Yoga teacher battling a mental health disorder and lifelong depressive illness I may just well be the right person to ask, if indeed Yoga will change your life because I’ve been there, done that ….and got the t-shirt to prove it. (if you've taken a look at the Roo Betty store you will in fact already know that )
So let’s start at the very beginning what makes me qualified to answer this question. Well...I’ve suffered from depression my whole life from my early teens to mid forties. I’ve been on medication which at times has helped a bit. I’ve chatted to various health professionals and I’ve been diagnosed Bi Polar II. I’ve been suicidal and numb, I’ve cried for days and not wanted to leave my house, and I’ve painted on the smile and talked myself into leaving the front door. I’ve dragged myself to work, whilst having a family and I have a million and one coping strategies. Sometimes they work and sometimes they don’t. I’m now off my medication and surfing through life's highs and lows. But how did I get to this point and how did yoga help?
Why Yoga is important for your Mental Health.
So let’s start with why Yoga will help. Firstly it’s an exercise, nothing more, nothing less. The reason why many people start on the fabled Yoga journey is that you go to a yoga class and you love the buzz that it gives you. Like any exercise whether it’s running, dancing, team sports or going to the gym.. Moving your body has been proven, time and time again to be brilliant for depression and mental well being you can read more about that here. There is also the connection with others doing the same thing as you and when you go week in week out, you see the same faces you start to feel part of something. With classes opening back up after lockdown, going to a class might just be what you need to feel a little less troubled with your thoughts. . After all staying home and doing Yoga on zoom is great but nothing beats that in person connection.
Which Yoga is best?
Now this really is a hard one to pick. With so many styles and teachers out there I can guarantee that there really is a Yoga that will suit if not everyone then most. Don’t ever be put off by the first class you go to. Whether you need the sweat of Hot Yoga the intensity of a Vinyassa, or the calm of a Yin class, go do some research. It’s fun and if the first class doesn’t float your boat ask a friend or two who they rate in your area. If you throw a stone you really will hit a yoga teacher. We are everywhere. In fact just hang out at Sweaty Betty or LuLu Lemon and one may cross your path.
If you are a complete novice then a beginners class at your local studio will help heaps and heaps. I know that Zoom Yoga has opened up the world of yoga to so many more people and of that I am grateful but when you can travel to a retreat or the nearest big town for the in person experience of a teacher in the same room as you, it can make a massive difference to your practise.
So you may have started Yoga ‘cos it felt great to move your body, but the real work for your mental health comes in the being still. And Yoga as you can guess is one complete practise. A mix of movement as therapy and then the lying still bit at the end of the class where the real work begins. In my humble opinion this is the actual best bit!!! When you first start to lie down or Savasana as it’s referred to in class you may be thinking I don’t need this bit. In fact you may have been guilty of skipping out before the end, a busy life, work commitments or just trying to get back to the car before the parking ticket expires. The truth is…. Feeling uncomfortable when you confront yourself is all part of it. My own practise has smacked right up against that wall and I have had to challenge the lessons that this has brought up. I have actually cried in class sobbed so hard on my mat that snot has dripped from my nose. Yeah I know that's an image you perhaps didn’t need. What I'm trying to say is I’ve pushed against it. Not welcomed the lesson that it was showing me and ran a mile before I relented, lay down and breathed. When you finally do stop and listen to your body you will be relieved I promise.
How Yoga helps Mental Health
The hardest lesson of all is confronting yourself head on and making a change for the better. Yeah I know you don’t like the feeling you’re experiencing, well that’s because you didn’t listen the first time with the little niggle of back pain or the gut issues or something that was pushed down and down again. We keep ignoring the messages our body is giving us and eventually it comes out loud. And so loud that it may make you feel a bit scared and frightened in fact. If you are there, right now with the pain and the suicidal thoughts I know I’ve been there too I know how painful it is. Please know that I am holding your hand right now, I am there with you and urge you to not panic, not feel that it's the only answer because it isn’t. I can guarantee a Yoga teacher will understand. They have been through all the tears and all the emotions that Yoga will eek out of your body. Their personal journey is there for you to learn from. After all, most Yoga teachers will in fact confirm that they are on the mat because of the madness. Because of what life has thrown at them. Their experience of what ever mental health moment has challenged them the moment that they have beaten or are still being challenged by. They know ..... ask them it's how you will get better . After all life is a roller coaster (to quote the lovely Ronan Keating) The meditation that Yoga has as pat of its practice is where the magic happens , and that’s why Yoga is a great tonic because it forces you to do this as part of the practice and the more you do it, the more you realise the benefits and in turn get better at it (the meditation that is) So don’t knock it until you’ve cried through your meditation, until you screamed during meditation until you’ve unlock all the emotions that lie hidden beneath waiting to be unearthed, uprooted and ready to be challenged and hopefully laid to rest (that's the emotions, not you btw - hopefully you’re laughing at that quote!)
You will get better I promise that, so why not try out a class, why not see what all the fuss is about. Because Yoga will change your life I can vouch for that.