How Yoga and Mediation Changed my Life
From Anxiety and Depression to Expression and Self Love
Mindfulness Meditation and Yoga are fast-growing trends in Western culture today, but these ancient practices date as far back as 200-400 BC, originating in India. There are five ancient branches of Yoga: Hatha, (Pronounced Ha-Ta), Bhakti, Karma, Raja, and Jnana. Mindfulness meditation ties in with the Yogic belief of being "present," and being focused on the now, rather than the past or the future. The practice of breathing and going with the "flow" of Yoga may seem mundane, but the effects of the breath tied in with movement of the body instills a calmness, and provides strength and oxygen to the muscles while holding many forms. The beauty of the many branches is that one can find a practice that suits them, whether at home in front of the TV or balancing on your hands in a Bikram studio... There is truly something for everyone. Most practices include moments or even large sections of time in meditation, deep breathing powerfully while attempting to calm and clear the mind.
Yogis teach "breathe in positive, breathe out negative," and to "let go of anything that no longer suits you." This specific teaching has stuck with me through my very first year of trying out the practice of Yoga in the West. I was in my Senior (Gr.12) year of high school and decided I would take a Yoga course because it sounded better than weight training, which I wasn't a fan of at the time, mostly due to to the demographics of the class and feeling insecure. I absolutely fell in love with being on the mat from day one with my incredible teacher, who was about 70-years-old and still practicing Yoga every day, nimble as ever. She taught me some really valuable lessons that introduced me to this practice. One and a half hours a day of stretching, breathing, and relaxing during a busy year of both college and high school classes made a huge difference in my quality of life and stress levels.
When I got into university, I felt too busy and our dorms were too crowded for me to practice comfortably. I frequented a local studio but found it became too expensive for a college student, although it was a beautiful and peaceful place. Halfway through school, I stopped receiving help for tuition and reached a final decision to leave without my degree, which was extremely hard for me. It felt like all the hard work I did was for nothing, and I became depressed and confused about what to do with my life. I was only 19. I sought out a doctor who referred me to a psychiatrist, for mentioning that I had been having suicidal thoughts. I had gained 20 pounds in university, a boyfriend that I thought I loved had dumped me, and I was feeling worse about myself than ever before.
This doctor put me on several different pills. They altered my mind state to the point of where I wasn't even myself. I was so extremely tired day in and day out, and my creativity was gone. I was also extremely attached to my Iphone, laptop, and social media at this time and I would dwell endlessly on beautiful women who I aspired to look and be like on many platforms. After getting fired from a job, I had hit rock bottom. I moved into a 10 feet by 4 feet bedroom that was once a closet, and paid $300 a month to a couple old friends from high school to crash there while I worked and saved up some money. I hunted around a little but was feeling desperate so I took up a dishwashing job at a local brewery/pub. Day in and day out, washing dishes. Standing on a concrete floor, then walking through downtown to our pad close by, listening to music the whole way. At this time in my life, I kept my head down. I didn't stop to smell the roses. I didn't pause to listen to nature's sounds. I stayed zoned into my mind, worried about the future and bitter about the past. Just when I thought it couldn't get any worse, I lost my car due to financial reasons.
I literally had nothing. But, I had this friend. We had connected online and were talking for about a year before I decided to finally get the guts to go and meet him. He was in another country, but close-by. He valued the outdoors more than anyone I'd ever met, and I loved that. He started taking me everywhere with him, and I started getting back to nature, and with it brought a home-like feeling when I realized that I had always felt at home in the woods, even when I was a young child. I opened my eyes to the world around me. I observed nature and all its growth, as well its decay. Life and death are ever-present in the natural world. Although I used to obsess about death and dying in a negative way, I started to have a more open view about the beauty surrounding it. How the Earth gives and gives and when the organism has reached its time, the Earth takes back the decay to be used to grow more life. I stopped using my phone as much, as my new boyfriend didn't have Internet, and started living as simply as possible. I re-discovered my love for Yoga when I was scrolling through Youtube one day, looking for motivational speakers to inspire me. I was trying to get a job in this new country and it was really discouraging to go through such a long process to live a normal life. I tried to remain positive and be in the present. I listened to hours of Sadhguru videos about how to eliminate stress, anxiety, suffering, and becoming more conscious through meditation. Whilst researching mindfulness meditation, I came across Yoga videos by beautiful souls on Youtube who dedicated their time to creating flows and posting them for Yogis at home to follow along. I learned to not be so critical of myself, not worry about what others think of me, and go with my own flow. I bought Rachel Brathen's book Yoga Girl and was inspired by how the practice had changed her life so immensely. Ever since, I have been practicing Yoga. Every. Single. Day.
I practice meditation at any moment that I get a chance — five minutes driving down the road, twenty minutes before bedtime, every time I take a shower... and it has been helping me to heal old wounds and relieve anxiety about the future. With every obstacle that I go through in life, I go back to my practice to center myself and take care of my mind and body while going through the stresses of being a human on this planet. Yoga reminds me to take everything in stride and build myself up before I try to tackle anything that's thrown my way. It has built me into a stronger and more peaceful woman, and I would highly recommend it to anyone who is suffering from any of the burdens of the world. It reminds us that there is still beauty out there, and sometimes we have to create it.