My journey with yoga began four years back. I wasn’t sick or depressed. In fact I was healthy and quite happy with myself and everything around me. Or perhaps I should say that there was nothing in particular about my life or surrounding that had bothered me. But I had too much time on my hands. And that is how it all started … out of utter boredom! And it motivated me to learn something new 🙂
“It is not enough to accept boredom, you must embrace it. It is only when you have completely embraced it that you can go beyond it.” Albert Low
Since then, my Yoga practice has worked like a therapy on me and has taught me -slowly, how to help myself. At first, almost after a year into the practice, I had started getting bouts of depression and had thought of the practice as an absolute redundant ingredient in my routine. I had wondered “If Yoga is supposed to help us and improve our state of being, why then the more I get on the mat, the more miserable I feel?”
However, through the years of practice, my mat has become my buffer against the world. My time on the mat is something I can lean on, something I can trust to help me pull out of life’s harsh chaos.
A Self-Loathing Mindset
I am not exaggerating this, my depression phase lasted for months, making my practice harder and harder. My time on the mat translated into the time I spent crying … mostly about some mysterious things in my life. I particularly remember this one time when I was paciting a heart-opening pose
and I kept thinking to myself that though there is never an apparent reason to cry, I cry anyway; so better I get into a comfortable position and cry it out! It was as funny as it was awful because at that moment, the self-loathing mindset made me drop my practice.
“Stop hating yourself for everything you aren’t and start loving yourself for everything you already are.”
I had convinced myself that Yoga is just not meant for ME! At the physical level, I had begun to notice many positive changes. The practice had improved my sleep cycle, my menstruation cycle and my immunity in general (to name the few major benefits); nevertheless, it was destructing my mental health.
Thankfully, the story doesn’t end with this.
Re-Learning Yoga Against My Will
Some of the most important lessons we learn are ones we can’t learn voluntarily because we fear putting ourselves through the process and pain-all alone. Fortunately, I had someone who nudged me to delve deeper into the Yoga philosophy and practice. A few months later my sister Khushi (@stardivakhushi) signed me up for a Yoga Teacher Training Course (YTTC) and almost dragged me there against my own will. Needless to say, I was skeptical about the whole process, especially after the experiences I have had with my personal practice.
Within a few days of the course, my bouts of depression returned and this time it felt worse than before. I used to have breakdowns in the middle of a class and my body was regularly experiencing new forms of sickness. But I didn’t panic because this time I had a support system that exactly understood what I was going through. I was surrounded by well-experienced teachers to guide me through my practice.
“Joy is a natural phenomenon. Misery is your creation.” Sadhguru
By discussing my current health and depression with my teachers, I came to understand that my depression and sickness are a part of my cleansing. It is something that is bound to happen sooner or later, if I remain committed to the practice.
I realised that I always had a whole lot of bottled up emotions. It was my practice on the mat, which was bringing it all to the surface…so I can acknowledge it, understand it and, Let Go of it. This time, I did not have an option to drop my practice and run away. It was time for me to get raw, dig deeper and keep showing up on the mat with commitment and curiosity for what I may unfold – and goodness! It really does pay off!
“When you can tell your story and it doesn’t make you cry, you know you have healed.”
It was a difficult transition for me, to say the least. I had relied on antidepressants for years! Nobody has the time and energy to “heal” themselves, right? Everything else but yourself, become your priority! But I have learned that you should take time to heal yourself first, rest assured, everything else will fall in place.
Emotional and Spiritual Healing
Long story short (but not too short), about two years later, I still remain committed to my practice. My mat is my sacred place, it’s where I unwind and restore myself. On my worst days when I don’t know what to do, when I don’t feel taken care of or brave enough to be vulnerable, I still get on the mat and move. The movement always helps me draw out the negative energy and make space for stillness in my life.
I can talk on and on about physical benefits of yoga too but I have noticed that nowadays Yoga is primarily looked upon as a physical exercise and most people believe it to be merely a fitness tool. They are well aware of the physical benefits of yoga but do not know what it can do for our emotional and spiritual healing, which is the reason why, when I talk about yoga, I talk more about emotional aspects of it than the physical.
Power of Consistency
As for those who are contemplating starting Yoga or happen to be new on the path, I would say that please stay consistent. Yoga is way more than just a physical exercise. It’s also a way to clear one’s emotional blockages, to bring more serenity in life, to grow on an emotional and spiritual level.
Have patience with yourself. It’s not a magic pill (isn’t that obvious?).
And regardless of what style of Yoga you practice, please listen to your body. I know it has become a fancy slogan that we throw in movement classes like confetti but it’s an important message. Not all styles of yoga will work for you, not every kind of pranayama would be right for you, not every kind of cleansing practice will fit your system and the only way to discover that what suits you best, is to be experimental and stay in your body and LISTEN TO IT. It’ll tell you what it needs; how, when and how much – it’ll tell you everything. Be patient with it and show up on your mat with a sense of compassion, not competition.
“Show up on your mat with a sense of compassion, not competition.”
Lastly, when you start to feel tempted to drop your practice for one reason or another, that’s exactly the time when you need to hold onto it with all ten fingers. However, do seek help. If I didn’t have the support system and guidance, I wouldn’t have conquered my struggles on the mat. So be open to seeking help. No matter what struggles you are facing, there’s someone out there who has faced it and conquered it. Find a teacher who can understand your journey, and open up to being guided and supported.
“Yoga is a process, of replacing old patterns with new and more appropriate patterns.” T Krishnamacharya
Love, Nurture and Thank Your Body
Have some gratitude for all that your body does for you and pay it back in whatever ways you can. Move it regularly, feed it healthy food, hydrate it well, give it hugs and shoulder kisses and listen to what it says. Your body keeps you alive so you could practice art, read poetry, cook, dance in the kitchen, and hold your loved ones in your arms. As long as your body is breathing and pumping blood, it deserves nothing but utter gratitude from the center of your soul.
Yoga instructor, freelance writer and self-love ambasador