Yoga Teacher Battles the Big D! How Meditation HELPS
It may seem like a paradox to see “depressed” and yoga teacher in the same sentence. The most common image of a yoga teacher is happy and care free, living in perfect bliss…but many yoga teachers actually find yoga as an antidote for their own anxiety and/or depression.
In August of 1980, my Dad took his own life. He was 33; I was 10. Since his loss, I’ve had my own battle with depression. I am so grateful that Lilas Folan introduced me to yoga on public TV in the 70s. I don’t remember practicing the postures, but I do remember she did a guided meditation, relaxing each muscle from the toes to top of the head. I used that to help me sleep at night for many years. She planted a seed, the seed of the tree of yoga that has helped me survive and thrive in my life! Yoga has given me tools to fight these endless battles with depression, and I want to share this information so we can have more SURVIVORS THRIVING!
I didn’t talk about my dad’s death for many years, and then only with close friends and relatives. I wanted my mom, family and friends to see me as strong. A few years after he died, we moved away from my hometown. For the first time I could start moving on from the trauma of finding him, from the questions that I did not have answers to, and from the Shannon that everyone pitied.
It’s still hard to talk about. Obviously, my friends know this sad side of me (not to mention that I’m a blues singer!) It’s hard to discuss partly because I don’t want to hurt my mother (or myself, or anyone) by bringing up painful memories. But mainly, it’s hard because I STILL STRUGGLE with depression from time to time, and I did not want to blow my cover and tarnish the “perfectly happy yoga teacher” image.
While I do still get depressed, it’s not nearly as often as I used to, and I am able to see it coming. I have learned to see the patterns within me that bring on the depression, I am proactive as I approach the seasonal/winter blues I get in February/March, and I have more clarity of how my trauma pattern emerges in August, around the date of my dad’s death. I understand that my body and heart have had this pattern engrained on them from the moment I found my Dad.
I was honestly hoping I could just keep on being happy and healed, sharing my experience and practice with my local students but not really telling my story. But after losing several beloved friends and celebrities to suicide these last few years, I feel called to share. Maybe I can help someone, even if it’s only one…YOU!
YOU CAN FEEL BETTER!!!!!!!
In my healing, I’ve come to understand that my Dad was living in a different time. We didn’t talk about depression then the way we do now and he didn’t have access to the tools of talk therapy, yoga, or other interventions. I have tried a few anti-depressants and a lot of self medication but I don’t like being comfortably numb all the time…not to mention the side effects were depressing themselves. I knew there was more to feel besides sadness and pain.
Meditation is where I started. I think of it as PREVENTION, a RECON MISSION to gain vital information about enemy forces (the Big D). Through meditation, we can begin to recognize the thought patterns. THESE THOUGHT PATTERNS ARE NOT YOU PERSONALLY. They are learned, repeated thoughts and patterns that hurt us. We have to break the cycle by becoming aware. Starting a simple meditation practice will help you become more aware through observation. Once you become aware of harming thoughts, you can—over time—begin to transform them, to reprogram your responses to create the vision of love and healthy life and relationships that you want.
If you like, you can journal about them for possible analysis or just to get them out of your system and allow time to process them. Then you can more easily not engage with the thoughts, or even shift thoughts when you start becoming aware of them. It takes repetition to counteract the years and grooves of the other, old patterns, the lifetime of battles and internal war that we all experience at some time in our lives. I’m still learning how to slow down or even stop and reverse the downward spiral. I have not been all I can be, I still have a lot of bad habits, and I still cry all the time…but there are so many more tears of joy now. Most of all, I’m not stuffing it down.
WHERE to START?
Take ONE MINUTE, RIGHT NOW. Sit up strong, if you can. Press both feet into the floor if you’re in a chair, or sit on the floor. Inhale, exhale. Stay with your natural breathing…observe…..close your eyes and repeat…either go for one minute or count 10 slow inhales and exhales.
YOU JUST MEDITATED!!!!
Meditation starts with focusing the mind on an object; you focused on your breath for one minute. Did your mind wander? GOOD! When that happens, come back to the breath: inhale, exhale, repeat….that’s the practice. If this seems “boring” or without purpose, think about this…inhale is the first action you take when you enter this world, and exhale will be your last action. And isn’t it miraculous that you breath all day, everyday, without having to think about it? INHALE, EXHALE, REPEAT. MIRACULOUS! Even if you forget, you will still keep breathing! So, when your mind drifts, return to the breath.
Look at your schedule. Where can you find 2-5 minutes at the same time each day? You are creating a new habit, so try to meditate at the same time every day. Start meditating just a few minutes a day, maybe 5… but you can start with much less time than that! Just do it DAILY. Listen to your body, observe. Be gentle with yourself. Honor the body and honor the heart. Become aware of how your body feels, how you are feeling emotionally and mentally…these are all very connected, nourished by your breathing, by oxygen! Simply breathe, observe, become aware. Try to be consistent, but no beating yourself up if you miss a day, week, or a year. You can always start over! Just a few minutes each day helps and, again, IT TAKES TIME.
Start small and build over time. Just keep coming back to your comfortable seat and observe. I started my seated meditations at 5 minutes; for the past five years, I’ve been very consistent with 20-30 minutes a day. Before that, it was off/on for years. I consider myself in the early stages of meditation—some people meditate for hours.
I like to meditate first thing in the morning, but for years I did it before bedtime. Anytime you will actually sit down and do it is the right time! I wake up grumpy, so a morning meditation allows me some transition time. It lifts the fog, cleans the cobwebs from the night. I really do feel refreshed and can feel the shift from grumpy to GRATEFUL. My long-time significant other can also see how this helps me start my day better.
Start WAKING UP and FEEL BETTER by starting a meditation practice today. NOW!!!!!
There are endless ways to meditate. Explore and find out what works for you and change it up, KEEP EXPLORING!!!!!! Google it and you will find countless methods!!! Deepak Chopra and Oprah have some guided meditations that can help get you started: http://www.chopra.com/ccl/guided-meditations
A community is a huge help when changing habits or going through healing! Keep us posted on how it’s going!
When do/will you meditate?
How many minutes will you start your meditation?
What questions do YOU have about meditating?
What obstacles are keeping you from meditating?
I challenge you to meditate on your breathing for 5 minutes for the next 21 days!!! START TODAY!!!!!!
Keep me posted!!!!! I would love to support you on your journey!!!
Peace, Love and GRATITUDE,