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How Yoga & Meditation Heals Depression
I have a personal experience with yoga and dealing with depression throughout my life. Yoga and meditation has helped me to feel more centered. The first time that I practiced yoga was in college at The Ohio State University. After taking my first yoga class, I walked outside and it was like my sight was clearer, the world was quitter, and I felt peace for the first time. I continued taking yoga for the rest of that quarter and it was the best decision that I ever made. Since that yoga class, I have practiced several different styles of yoga over the years.
I grew up poor. My parents divorced when I was eighteen years old. While they were married, they fought and argued every day. There were many fights, arguing, and terrible tension in the home. It was a very stressful environment to grow up in. I never felt a sense of peace. When my parents finally divorced and moved to separate places, my mother took the divorce really hard. I could feel her sadness when I walked into a room where she was. She was overwhelmed with her new life and raising my little sisters. My dad got remarried and had two new stepchildren. I had no one, so I decided to go to college to get away and create my own life.
When I attended college, I loved it. I loved meeting new people and finding myself. The Ohio State University is a very large college and it is easy to get lost there. I joined several different organizations, volunteered, and had three jobs at one point. Because I was juggling so much, I felt overwhelmed. I never learned how to deal with stress. Many of my friends were fortunate enough to have their parent’s assistance with new cars, a monthly allowance, and tuition paid ever quarter. Many of my friends did not understand the struggles and stress that I faced. I joined a Christian bible study group when I first attended The Ohio State University. It was nice in the beginning but many of the people were judgmental, unsupportive, and did not have and harmony or peace in their lives.
My last year in college I had taken many of the required courses so, I decided to take yoga to get be full time. I heard a little about yoga, but I did not know if its benefits until I had taken my first class. Every day I would wake up go to class, work, study, work, class then try to have time to spend with friends. It was the same routine every day. I had many worries about my financial situation, transportation, my future, and other worries and stress. During that first yoga class was the first time that I can recall living in the present. The anxiety of the past wasn’t a worry and the depression about my future wasn’t a worry. I lived in the present and felt peace and harmony for the first time.
After talking this yoga class, I saw how toxic the Christian group was in my life. I distance myself from them. I felt as though my life was coming together through practicing yoga. I could process my thoughts without stress, and I did not want anyone to contribute to any more stress in my life. I prayed many times in my life before that first yoga class, but I learned how to mediate during this yoga class. I felt a peace like I have never felt before. There is this powerful quote, “Prayer is talking to God, meditation is listening.” Meditation is an important part of Yoga because it produces tranquility. Breathing is also another important aspect of yoga that helped me to heal. I never focused on my breath before. I never inhaled so deeply or felt such a release from exhaling. The author of the book The Complete Illustrated book of Yoga writes about how we drain our energy by thinking acting, and other emotions. Prana or breath is carried to all parts of the nervous system to build and replenish. I was able to be calmed down through my breath.
Practicing the asanas was challenging at first. Over time I became more limber. I didn’t realize before that my posture was so bad. I would hunch my shoulders a lot. I gained confidence and peace practicing yoga. There are several poses that help with posture. Tadasana or The Mountain Pose creates a strong foundation through the feet. Raising the arms above the head and touching palms give Tadasana extra power.
I established a yoga practice until I graduated from The Ohio State University. After I graduated, I moved out of state and got engaged. I was not happy. I did miss my family, but I was already used to being away from home because The Ohio State University was about an hour away from where most of my family lived. There in that condo, in this new state that I did not like with my fiancé and his sister, I felt so alone. My yoga practice didn’t last long. It did not help that there were no yoga studios anywhere near where I lived at the time.
I did get marred but it did not work out. The divorce process caused me a lot of stress and I fell into a depression after it was over. In the book A Life Worth Breathing, Max Strom says that the chains of our past hold us. Also, that depression is a way of telling us that we need to make a change in our life. I remember laying on the bed crying asking God why I was still alive after all the things I went through. I did not want to see another day. I felt that I was living in hell. I hated the hot weather. I hated my ex-husband. I wasted my 20’s. I didn’t regret my children, but I regretted not doing other things that I always wanted to do.
On top of the stress from the divorce, my youngest son has a compromise immune system. He was only one years old when he had his first blood transfusion. The icing on my shitty cake was that my grandmother died of cancer before my divorce was final which also contributed to my depression. I needed to make a change in my life.
I began to make changes in my life. One of my goals is to visit every state in the United States with my children. My children and I went to Disney World for the first time and have been every year since. We also started visiting other places that we had never been to before. I created other goals and create positive affirmations to help lift my spirits and self-esteem.
I began to pick myself up about two and half years ago from today. But, I was very sad when my children went with their dad. So, I began to find different yoga studios to practice. I did not experience the kind of spiritual awakening automatically after one yoga class like in college. I did realize that I needed to quiet my mind. The worries of the past haunted me. The worries about the future worried me. Through slowly going through the material for the yoga teacher training course and different yoga studios, it has helped me tremendously.
I think that the most interesting thing that has helped me in this healing process is learning about the chakras in the book The Sevenfold Journey. I learned that I carried a lot of blockage from my past. Learning what these things were, helped me to heal. The working with movement exercises helped me to learn which yoga poses were good for the different chakras. When practicing yoga in a class, a yoga teacher does not go into detail about what poses benefit the different chakras. While practicing yoga, this explains why I feel less stressed and free after practicing yoga.
I had three serious relationships plus my marriage my entire life. All were a disaster. Growing up and seeing my parents fighting and arguing subconsciously influenced me and how I deal with relationships. In the book Reclaiming Mind, Body, & Spirit Through the Chakras, the writer discusses the first chakra basics right is a right to have. I feel that this right has been threatened through my divorce and fighting over custody and just over all being in an unhealthy situation. Healing this chakra is very freeing because I know that I deserve balance and stability from others. I deserve to treat myself and organize my life with stability and balance.
Getting out of depression is a challenge. Especially having to continue communicate with the person who contributed to the depression is very difficult. I have learned about many of the yoga positions that can help uplift and energize. Inverted poses such as the shoulder stand helps to balance hormones and can be deeply calming. I am not yet able to do a head stand. I look forward to benefit of the head stand lightening my mind and feeling energized from the increased blood supply to the brain warding off tiredness. The hare pose is an alternative position that I practice until I am able to pose in head stand. In the book, The Yoga Healing Bible, it reviews some sitting postures that are good for calming.
Another benefit that helped me on this yoga journey, is the vegetarian alternative lifestyle. I have learned to find foods that give me energy. After having children, I started stress eating. I am ok with not eating meat, but my downfall is chocolate. I use to eat chocolate every day. I have learned to substitute my cravings with healthy alternatives such as fruit and eating foods that are rich in more protein. I have been a vegetarian on and off throughout the years. I learned some helpful information from the book The Complete Illustrated Book of Yoga. For example, the author mentions that a vegetarian can have more endurance than someone who eats meat. I believe this is true because after eating meat, my body is more sluggish. When eating a vegetarian diet I feel lighter and more energized.
Eating healthy is an important part of my healing process with depression. Though it may be difficult, I have to break the bad routines that caused my weight gain and do not help to bring purity to my mind or body. I recently learned that I have larger tumors called a fibroid. After learning about what fibroids are and how large mine fibroid are, I think this may be the real culprit to my weight gain. The fibroid is about 10 centimeters, while my uterus is about 15 centimeters. I think that my body thinks that it is two months pregnant. I found this large mass while practicing yoga. This is why I decided to do this On Year To Live Project. The good thing is this tumor is not cancerous.
Originally, I purchased the yoga teacher training course to be a wonderful yoga teacher like my first yoga teacher. After completing the work, I realize that I really needed this course to heal. I needed to learn that I can indeed control the madness going on in my mind. I have learned that through difficult times, I can manage with daily meditation. I can practice different poses to unblock chakras and feel at peace with my mind, body, and spirit. Through Christianity I learned about God. Through Yoga I feel as if I connected to God. I feel that through Yoga I am becoming more at peace overall. I have learned to be kind to myself. Yoga has helped me to see the light in any situation and keeps me from reverting back to that dark place the I was before.
Thank you for coming along with me on this journey.
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