Anxiety & Depression is on the rise around the world and we are seeing more and more articles on this topic pop up on social media. I wanted to offer my experience because I have found so much healing through practicing yoga and I can't sit back and watch people suffer without at least offering what I can.
I came to know anxiety and depression in my early twenties, the time when many mental health issues arise for a lot of people. At this time, I had no idea what was happening to me and there was very little support out there (or at least in my small community) at the time. So I did what I only knew how, I sucked it up and pushed it to the side. I became an expert at avoiding my triggers, I comforted myself with all kinds of unhealthy food (earth element) to ground my fleeting mind and stopped going out or being in crowds because I was so afraid I might have a panic attack. Thankfully at the peak of my anxiety and depression I found the path and practice of Yoga and my healing journey began.
Here are a few ways how Yoga helps with Stress, Anxiety & Depression:
1. Yoga is rooted in REALITY (truth) and not the MIND (imagination/memory):
Our minds, as we all know, can create an unlimited number of scenarios in our head. An anxious mind is playing out a horror movie in their mind, while a depressed mind is watching re-runs of an old show again and again and critiquing it in as many ways as possible. Yoga asks us to stop watching the movie all together and be present in the movie (life) you are creating moment-by-moment.
2. Yoga is about ACCEPTANCE & not PERFECTION
If Yoga is rooted in truth, then we need to stop lying to ourselves. In one sense it’s calling ourselves out on all the BS, specifically in the negative pictures we paint in the mind. In another sense its about letting yourself be vulnerable and knowing you are a work in progress. Yoga says the root of suffering lies in Avidya (ignorance) or not knowing our true potential. No amount of self-improvement will make up for any lack of self-acceptance. We need to make peace with our truth and look at it rationally, without so much ownership. Example: I used to be very self-critical, which led to me being very critical of others. Okay, so I recognize and accept this as part of my personality make up, and now I will do my best to change this. Without beating myself up about it. In Yoga philosophy which follows the law of Karma, there is no good and bad- just actions. We need to go beyond our own labels of “good” and “bad” and start seeing it as just “is”. This helps us step beyond our own judgements of ourselves and others and giving everyone that fresh slate to keep moving forward.
3. The goal of yoga is SELF-realization
How often do we worry about the state of the world, politics, what the neighbours are doing, who’s offending you, who you offended etc.? Yoga asks us to step back from the “others” and focus on yourself. Some people call this being self-centred but I like to think of it as being Centred in the Self. The goal in yoga is to bring you to a state a long lasting state of inner peace. This can only happen from within. Yoga will not make you cut off from the world by making you self-centred. It will allow you to feel so much inner peace and such a connection to others that you will bring compassion and light to those you see who haven’t quite found it yet.
4. Yoga says Don’t Take Life So Seriously- it’s all transitory anyhow.
Let’s look at life and the things we stress out about in a very logical way. First off let’s admit that the only guarantee in life is that we all will die. Not many people like this, but it’s the truth-we come and we go. Same is with many of the things we stress over: jobs, relationships, money, homes etc. Many Yoga scriptures ask us to focus on the permanent things. Love, contentment, peace…all the things that truly matter. Of course we still need to fulfill our duties and commitments, but we can definitely shift our outlook on the ways we approach them.
5. Yoga empowers you to create the life you want to live
We are the creators of our own reality. Through sustained Yoga Practice we obtain the power to overcome the limited mind and to face obstacles head on. We recognize there is a choice in every moment. A choice to move towards peace or the alternative. By asking oneself “will this choice liberate me or limit me?” we can navigate through the world making peaceful decisions that will bring us more in line with what we feel matters most.
6. Yoga stops the Blame Game
Yoga makes us Self-responsible and Self-reliant. The more we recognize that we are the creators of our lives we move away from blaming others for our problems. We are responsible for our own emotions and if/how we let others affect us. Someone could be absolutely rude to you, but you are the one who decides if you will let it bother you. By refining our minds through practice it gets easier to leave the “you” out of things. We also stop depending on everyone else for giving us what we feel we deserve and need by giving it to ourselves. Through practice we become self-reliant. Before looking outwardly for something, we ask ourselves, can I give this to myself? When this shift happens we can enjoy others without getting trapped in the dependency of others.
Wishing you all the best on your journey inward,