Yoga and Depression
I remember the night of my first anxiety attack as if it were yesterday. It was last year when I was heading back home from a dinner with friends and I was driving in the car. I was listening to music, I was already very close to my apartment back then and stopped at a traffic light when suddenly it hit me. I burst into tears and my breath got stuck in my chest. I felt this numbing and intense pain right where my heart is and thought I am having a stroke. I couldn't breathe anymore and the tears didn't stop. It took all my power to pull myself together and finish my car ride home for the last two minutes. I sat in the car and it took me about an hour and a half to finally get out. It took me a while to connect to my breath again and return to my body. It felt as if I had no control anymore about my body and I was not mentally at the moment.
And from this moment on, my minor mild depression turned into a major severe depression. Every day was a struggle and was the same. I didn't want to wake up, eat or leave my bed. I was constantly tired, slept all day and night, cried non-stop and became afraid of the outside world. I felt stressed all the time and my breathing got heavier. I neglected my yoga practice during this time because I wasn't able to move my body and leave the tiny space of my apartment. Moving felt as if it is a burden and just too hard.
After I had reached the lowest point of my depression where I couldn't deal with it anymore and needed medical support, I was prescribed antidepressants and a psychotherapy, where I learned how to start doing the things again I love. Including my yoga practice. I had felt connected before to my practice, but starting that moment I could feel the connection becoming more real. Practicing yoga helped me to release my emotions and the stress I had been feeling. Not only did the practice give me a break from all the thoughts that had been wandering my mind, it also physically released my body from tension and pressure. Developing strength and gaining confidence were two very important factors during this time for me. Small successful moments such as mastering a posture that I haven't been able to do for months, made me become more eager to continue working on myself. Letting all my emotions out helped me to deal with them one by one. Devoting time for only myself and being able to connect to my inner soul, helped me to accept myself and to see the truth. And at that point, the truth that I saw were all the things that kept bothering me in life and I couldn't accept until that point. I learned how to release myself from everything that has been pulling me down and that only influenced me in a negative way. Before I had the feeling that all my emotions kept swirling around in my body and mind, keeping me from moving on and letting go. With a continuous practice and finding the connection to myself, slowly I could face them one by one and let go of them completely.
Postures I enjoyed during this depressive state varied, but mostly I enjoyed doing heart-opening poses and backbends such as Camel, Wheel or Cobra. Feeling as if I was hiding my emotions and keeping my heart to myself, these poses opened up my chest and made me feel exposed. Especially at the end of each practice in Savasana, I felt lighter and happier. Looking back, I can say with certainty that yoga had saved my life. Even though many other factors influenced the overcoming of my depression such as therapy and family, yoga was and still is my number one healing. Because compared to everything else, this is the time where I spend time with solely myself and face the person who I am. It is the time where I see the true me with all the strengths and weaknesses. And where I learn to feel comfortable in my own body and mind. It is the time where I realize that the power within you is limitless and if you believe in yourself, you can conquer every blockage you may find along your life path.