“You have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition. What you’ll discover will be wonderful. What you’ll discover is yourself.” ~~ Alan Alda
This past weekend, I had the opportunity to attend a wonderful workshop at the Asheville Yoga Center. As you may know, I am currently pursuing my 500 hour RYT certification with them, and one of the modules I have to fulfill is for Yoga Therapeutics. There are quite a few Therapeutics options to choose from, and one that particularly stood out to me was the one being offered this past weekend: Life Force Yoga to Manage Your Mood.
The moment I signed up for this workshop a few months ago, I couldn’t wait for the date to arrive. I think it stood out to me because it focused on using yoga to deal with depression and anxiety. Both depression and anxiety run rampant in my family, and I have many friends and yoga students who suffer from these conditions as well. And honestly, I’ve had days where I’ve been depressed. I’ve also suffered from panic/anxiety attacks. So I know what it feels like, and it’s not fun!
Throughout the weekend, we learned a variety of tools that can be used to manage both depression and anxiety. Chanting certain sounds, for example, can boost your energy or calm you down. Same thing with certain breathing exercises – some are very energizing, and some are meant to bring a sense of calm to a person.
Probably the one thing that was the most eye-opening for me was how you should move your body for each condition. For example, someone in a depressed state of mind tends to be the stereotypical “couch potato”, not wanting to do ANYTHING at all. My first thought was, “Well, if someone is in that state of mind, then they need to get moving (like a Vinyasa or Power style of practice) to get some energy. Moving gets the endorphins flowing, which makes you feel good.” And that is true…moving is what a depressed person needs to help them get out of their “funk”, so to speak. But jumping right in to a vigorous practice actually causes a depressed person more stress and can actually worsen the depression. Instead, you need to meet the person where they are. Which means they need to start by moving and breathing in a more slow and restorative way, and then build up from there to more energizing types of movements and breathing exercises.
Same thing goes for someone with anxiety. This type of person tends to be “jumpy” and their thoughts tend to be all over the place. Their heart rates tend to be high, and their breathing tends to be quick and shallow. Someone in this state of mind needs to calm down and relax. But again, you need to meet them where they are in order to bring them to the point where they need to be. This means starting them off with more energizing moves and breathing exercises, and then gradually bringing them down to slower and more calming moves and breath exercises.
It all makes sense to me now, but before this workshop, I probably would have approached people with these issues in the complete opposite way.
It was especially cool for me to learn this, because not so long ago, my yoga practice was very regimented. I always practiced a Power or Vinyasa style of yoga, no matter what. And I always wondered why on some days, I would leave my mat feeling defeated or frustrated. After this past weekend, I now think I know why. I was practicing a style that was active right from the start, even on days when I came to my mat with little to no energy. And by practicing in that way on those types of days, my body wasn’t able to do all the things I was demanding of it because I simply didn’t have the energy to give.
As I’ve written in several of my previous posts, I’ve altered my personal practice over the past year or so to include meditation, Yin and more restorative routines. I’ve been working really hard these past few months to figure out what my body is telling me each morning, and then practicing in such a way that meets those needs. So intuitively, without meaning to, I have been doing for myself exactly what I learned about this past weekend. And since I have been doing this, I’ve definitely noticed a difference in myself. Because I’m now moving to meet the mood of my body, I feel more joy in whatever movement I am doing, rather than the dread I used to feel.
So my hope for you is that you begin to take the time to listen to your own body. Especially if you are someone who suffers from such issues as depression and anxiety. Really take the time to tap in and discover what your body is telling you. By doing this, you’ll discover who YOU truly are, and that is the best gift of all.