• Amy Michele

Mental Health and Yoga

Disclaimer: I am not a mental health professional. This article is simply my account of my personal experiences. If you are struggling with mental help, please seek out the assistance of a qualified professional. If you are at the brink of your own life, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255

After my breakdown in early 2011, I knew it was time to get help to cope with my anxiety and depression. I saw a therapist for a short time and having unbiased feedback was helpful. My physician prescribed an anti-depressant, but I admit I was hesitant to take the medication. The encouragement of both a dear friend and a caring family member helped me to see that I was suffering from a disease and this medication was a good option to treat it. For me the pharmaceutical approach was a useful tool. However, neither of these traditional approaches felt like the right fit for me long term. I am aware that these techniques help many people survive and thrive, but I did not want to be on medication for the rest of my life or rely on the advice of a therapist. I wanted to take personal control and manage my illness a different way. I was not entirely sure what that management would look like and was grateful that I had the first two tools in place while I experimented with finding my way. This series of posts entitled "Mental Health and...." will explore the coping skills and changes that help me stay centered each day.

As I think back to how I was feeling after my diagnosis, I remember that I just kept thinking I wanted some peace. I wanted a way to handle my feelings and stress positively without relying on medication. During that same time frame, a co-worker of mine was working her way through a yoga teacher training course. She kept sharing with me all the great things she was learning about yoga and herself. I had taken yoga classes off and on over the years, but never really felt engaged in the practice. Listening to her talk about her experiences inspired me to return to the mat. I decided if I was going to jump back in, I was going to go all the way. That spring I enrolled in the next session of teacher training at the yoga studio I had attended. It was not really my intention to teach yoga, but simply to immerse myself in the history, philosophy and movement of yoga. My hope was to develop a practice that would increase my feelings of peace.

I was delayed in attending the course, but finally began in January 2013. This 200 hour training was all I anticipated and more. Not only did I get the education and experience that I was seeking, but I learned a great deal about myself along the way. Stilling my mind and bringing my breath and physical movement into sync gave me space and opportunity to calm my thoughts and deal with challenges in a more constructive way. An added bonus was that at the end of the 12 weeks, I found I did have a desire to share what I had learned and start teaching yoga. I was blessed that an opportunity opened at the studio where I was trained.

Embracing this path offered me another wonderful benefit. A great part of my stress that fueled my depression and anxiety was related to the job that I was in. It was a struggle to let go of a good paying job, but my mental health was more important. After teaching for a year and developing my client base in massage therapy, I chose to quit my full-time corporate job and step out on faith into a much more fulfilling work. I have never looked back or regretted the choice that I made to change my life.

While I still have to work at keeping my depression and anxiety at bay, teaching and practicing yoga daily is a one of the powerful tools I now use to bring a little more peace into each day.



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