How I Found Yoga in My Depression
I remember sitting in my psychologist’s chair, and seeing the worry in her eyes as she looked over my answers. She had the results from the evaluation I took the previous session, and the look on her face told me that it was serious. At that time I knew I had dark days, but I always thought that was how everyone went through life.
I soon realized that I would need to see a psychiatrist, and remain on medication for 2 to 7 years, all while hoping that the medication would actually work. I was told I suffered from severe depression, with GAD (Generalized Anxiety Disorder) and some OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder) traits. I felt like a broken toy that no one wanted. I listened to my new doctor tell me how each medication was trial and error, and how exercise and diet were crucial in getting better. I stared at her, unable to explain that exercise might prove difficult seeing that waking up was a chore in and of itself. The idea of taking care of myself left me feeling selfish. Why should I take care of myself when that means continuing to exist in the world?
I was put on strict diet, that I found hard to follow, and made to see a dietitian more times than I could remember. However after less than six months on treatment, I had gained a large amount of weight. Looking at myself in the mirror left me feeling more depressed than before. The medication wasn’t working, it was simply making me FAT! My psychiatrist listened as I cried about gaining weight, and wanting to be off medication for a while. She changed that medication, and encouraged me to exercise more.
And this is when I discovered yoga!
Well not entirely. I had dabbled a bit while at university, but I focused solely on the physical aspect of the practice. Which was probably why it took me so long to tap into its benefits.
Yoga has countless benefits for the human body and spirit:
- Improves flexibility;
- Makes muscles stronger;
- Encourages blood flow;
- Betters ones posture;
- Helps with concentration:
- Relaxes the system;
- And most importantly, it makes you happier
Scientists will tell you that yoga helps with depression because it leads to a “significant increase in serotonin levels and a decrease in the levels of monoamine oxidase (an enzyme that breaks down neurotransmitters) and cortisol”. But I will tell you that yoga helps with depression because it shines light into the darkest places of your soul.
I rediscovered yoga when I read Light on Yoga by B. K. S. Iyengar. It soon became apparent that yoga was more than a physical act, but a mental and spiritual one as well. The Ros that woke up in the morning was different from the Ros on the mat. I began to see that I felt at peace when I practiced yoga. For the first time I understood why some acts should not be rushed, but enjoyed. And as I strengthened my mind and my body, I watched as my spirit grew closer to the God I believe in.
While doing a yoga flow, I was not depressed on tense. I was happy and amazed at the beauty of the body that has carried me all these years; the very body I had wanted to destroy. Every pose teaches you something different. For example:
Urdhva Dhanurasana aka Wheel Pose taught me the importance of opening up. One cannot collapse their chest in wheel pose, instead you have to open up and open your heart to the world. Every time I am in wheel pose, I remember the importance of not shutting out the people I love. A deeper back bend in wheel is achieved by opening up your chest even more; a deeper connection with those you love is only achieved with more openness with how you feel.
Padmasana aka Lotus Pose taught me that simplicity is best. It is okay to start small, it is okay to take baby steps. The small achievements become the building blocks to larger, more incredible things. So nothing should be seen as too small or too insignificant to add to the happiness in your life.
Pincha Mayurasana aka Feathered Peacock Pose taught me to aim high. I was always the first to say I can’t do something. I would have reasons why I was not good enough, smart enough, pretty enough, etc… But Pincha changed that. The day I could carry the weight of my body on my forearms, was the day I realized that the only thing that limits me is myself. I may not be able to achieve something today, but nothing can stop me from achieving it tomorrow.
Yoga has taught me how to carry my weight on my hands, as well as how to love with an open heart. On days when it seems very dark, I do a short sun salutation A to remind me of the beauty of being alive.
Photo credit: Yoga Journal