I wanted to start this post just explaining about my own mental health and how yoga has really been nothing but a bright light in my life. I can only advise off my own experience, everyone is different but i hope this helps even one of you just to think about yourself a little more, you do you always!
I have always suffered with stress and anxiety. In periods of my life i have suffered with depression. There is a constant inner battle. My anxiety drives me to be better (fight or flight – the fight in me wants me to succeed so badly and keep pushing for greatness), then you’ve got the depressive part of me that just wants to hide away and cry all day long. In this state of mind i have no energy to even get out of bed. It really is an unwelcome visitor that comes and goes as it pleases.
These 2 parts of me have been in constant battle for may years. Especially after leaving university 4 months after starting, the depression was so bad. I was back home & felt lost. I had nothing to work towards, and had no energy to work towards anything what so ever. My amazing mum suggested 1. Going to see a Doctor who prescribed me with anti-depressants and 2. Starting Yoga. The doctor also placed me on a list to try CBT classes which also was an interesting experience. The combination of these 3 things really worked for me. The medicine helped stop me from crying, sickness, heart palpitation. I think with the medicine giving me the help i needed, this then allowed me to even be open to trying yoga where before i didn’t even have the energy to get out of bed. The CBT gave me tools to help understand my deep rooted issues. As for the yoga, It was so lovely we had found something that my mum and i could do together. You walk in and there is this amazing smell in the air (my teacher used to burn incents that smelt like a bonfire). The class was relaxing and calm and when the session had ended i knew i was sold on the idea of coming to yoga every week. At the time, that in itself was a triumph! The whole experience was uplifting & for 1 hour a week i felt light as a feather, no inner demons holding me down. It was amazing.
Gradually, i started to practice at home. Its only recently in 2019 that i told myself that i really need to work on myself and i really wanted to develop my own self practice. And here we are, now a fully qualified teacher with so much more confidence & understanding of myself. Yoga has opened a new part of my mind, the 3rd part… peace. Lately I have been doing a lot better mentally, I have off day’s don’t get me wrong. But I know they won’t last, the visitor will leave again. I know what triggers me and I am working on battling my own inner insecurities but that gets easier everyday.
Now that deep section is out of the way, below are a few ways yoga is great for your mental health:
1. Calms your Nervous System – You have 2 modes of play in biology flight-or-flight to rest-and-digest. You typically have less anxiety and enter a more relaxed state. As soon as you start breathing deeply, you slow down out of fight-or-flight and therefore calm your nervous system. Also yoga is creating movement in the body. Any movement increases the flow of endorphins which is a natural hormone which makes us feel happier.
2. Starting a journey of self discovery – Through yoga, you get to know yourself and begin to have a more nonjudgmental relationship with yourself. You are building self-trust. The moment that you are taking that period of time to practice yoga this instantly tells your subconscious “I am important, i am worthy of this time” At the end of the day, everything comes down to your relationship with yourself. When you get more confident and become more rooted in your sense of self and your centre, you develop a healthy, balanced ego, where you have nothing to prove and nothing to hide. Even through hard vinyasa flows, you don’t want to give up. This reinforces your sense of will power and strength to keep going. You can do it!
4. It helps you become aware of your demons and triggers. Yoga makes us recognise qualities in ourselves that we were not aware of, helping us be more mindful. How do we look at those places in our bodies where we hold tension, tightness, knots of energy? That’s typically where we are holding our psychological or emotional energy. For example, if you feel stressed and are holding lots of tension in your shoulders, certain asana’s have the ability to unlock the emotional energy so you feel a release. I have once just stood in a Warrior Pose and a tear ran down my face & i felt so emotional. Standing in that way made me feel strong and clearly unlocked an energy hidden deep inside. It’s crazy i know but trust me.
5. Helps understand the ways you feel comfortable relaxing – A main part of yoga is relaxation & everything you learn in class can be used in day to day life. For example, when i can’t sleep, i have 2 ways of lying which i learn’t in a class and i am instantly asleep. One is lying on my front, big toes touching and heels turned out to the sided. One hand on top of the other (usually the pillow in between my arms ), head rests on the pillow and gone. The other one is lying in Savasana, if you’ve mastered feeling comfortable in this position you will thank me later. You will have the greatest nights sleep ever!
Before i go, just a few poses & tips to try that have helped me:
Downward Facing dog
Deep belly breathing
Essential oils (Lavender and Mint are lovely)
Regular Routine – Day to day
Eating Healthy 80% of the time, trust me if i want cake i will eat it
Drinking plenty of water
Limiting the amount of alcohol (Which is a depressant).
Find what works for you, try different combinations & be patient.
Love & Light, Ella.