Emily's Blog Post #1
Emily's Blog Post #1
“Shift your hips back and lift up to downward dog”
How many times have I been in downward dog the past few months? 20? 50? 100?
Regardless, it’s a simple instruction I’ve followed without thinking.
In my yoga practice, I strive to push conscious thoughts out of my head for a rejuvenating experience, focusing solely on the present moment.
But today was different. Today a thought entered my mind that I needed to dwell on, not push away. I thought about how far I’ve come mentally from a year ago. How I’m overjoyed to be able to be here on my mat. I’m ecstatic I was able to get out bed today, and every day so far this month. How I have a pile of work to do when I get home, but I’m beyond grateful to have the mental capacity to get it all done.
Today, I was told by a psychiatrist that I am in early remission from a major depressive episode.
For months, I experienced no positive thoughts or feelings and had no hope that things would get better. I wasn’t being a “Debbie Downer”; my brain chemistry was so flawed I lacked the ability to see anything positive in my life.
As a person with a natural optimistic outlook, loads of confidence and outgoing personality, it became concerning when I began to cancel plans, stay in on weekends, and isolate myself from family and friends. I remember not wanting to go out in public because I didn’t want anyone to look at me.
I confronted everything with “I can’t.” I can’t get out of bed today. I can’t leave the apartment. I can’t go to class. I can’t do my homework.
Yoga is what taught me “I can.”
I’ve done yoga on and off since high school, but as a student, I lacked the money and schedule to keep up with it. My interest was piqued when I started experiencing depression symptoms, as several studies have linked yoga to symptom relief. My mother offered me a compromise – If I went to a doctor to get some help, she would buy me a yoga pass. Taking up this offer provided me with the tools that would ultimately lift me out of depression and create a balanced lifestyle.
For so long, I had felt incapable of almost everything in my life. Yoga was finally something I was capable of. It’s all about doing the best you can, measuring your progress against no one but yourself. With each practice, you can go deeper into poses and hold them for longer than before. Although it can be practiced in a class setting, yoga is not a competition. It’s all about personal growth.
Having something to constantly work toward and learn from provided me with the first glimpse of optimism and positivity I had felt in a long time. Over time, I began to relate this optimism to other aspects of my life. Although it felt like my life was in ruins, I started to feel that it could get better.
When the first antidepressant I tried landed me in the ER with unbearable side effects, it was hard not to just give up on treatment. Even harder when the second one sent me soaring into hypomania (which is a whole other issue that needs a post of its own to explain). It took another failed experience with a counsellor and an ineffective mood stabilizer until I found a medication that worked.
Throughout the six-month medication trial-and-error and four-month wait to see a psychiatrist, there was no shortage of bad days. There were days I wanted to just stay under the covers and not get out of bed. There were lots of uncertainties. But what yoga had taught me was that I don’t have to be perfect. I just have to be doing the best I can. I pushed myself to get out more. I learned how to calm my thoughts, and eventually gained back control over my mind.
I’m not saying that yoga is a magical cure for every symptom. Depression is a medical disorder that requires treatment from a doctor, whether it’s medication, therapy or both. In my experience, yoga is used to effectively complement treatment and ease the severity of symptoms. It gives me something to look forward to and provides me with a daily hour of mental peace. It brings a feeling of balance and stability, and most importantly, the confidence I need to continue to improve in all aspects of my life.
I’m Emily, and I’m passionate about mental wellness, fitness & yoga. I’m obsessed with the outdoors and wiener dogs. Most importantly, I’m a peanut butter addict.