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Ayurveda and Depression

I rarely watch TV, but the few hours a week I turn it on I’m bombarded with commercials pushing pills to relieve the symptoms of depression. As many of you know, depression has been something I have struggled with throughout my life. While it’s hard for me to write about depression, especially my own, we keep losing family and friends to this disease and I long to help anyone that I can. 
Fall can trigger memories as we watch the process of life, the seasons of life, and remember loved ones and holidays gone by. I’m feeling my blues come on already this year with the loss of daylight, the loss of my uncle in June, the loss of our Piggy Kitty last year this time. The worry, the fear, of losing more family and friends we love. The knowing that we will. 
We all have loss—of family, friends, spouses, children, pets. We lose our jobs and homes. No one is safe; we all experience fear and insecurity, whether we acknowledge it or not. Life is freakin' scary, sad, and hard! We all get depressed at different times in our life. The more people I talk to, the more convinced I become that every human being has the same struggles. 
In the past, I have used anti-depressents under a doctor’s and therapist’s guidance. While there are times that medication can certainly be useful and needed, for me, the pills did not cure my depression. They only numbed me out and gave me other (in my opinion, worse) side effects. This resulted in an even deeper depression and a feeling of hopelessness. Sometimes, at the end of the commercial for anti-dpressants, they even say outright that the pills can make you feel suicidal.  Just hearing that infuriates me. Why are these pills on the market and why are they being sold to us, pushed on us? Inhale, exhale. Repeat…and zoom past the commercial. Or, better yet, TURN OFF THE TV! 
When pills didn’t work for me, I had to dig deeper in this battle, into the yoga toolbox. I’ve discussed in other posts how journaling, meditation and mantras are tools to shift perspective of the mind. Experiment with adding one or all of these into your daily routine. 
Part of my deeper exploration has been into Ayurveda. Ayurveda, the sister science of yoga, offers some self-care practices for your physical body that have helped me be more proactive in managing my winter blues. I learned about dry brushing and abhyanga only a few years ago in one of my yoga trainings. Basically, dry brushing (as the name implies) involves brushing your skin with a dry brush, and abhyanga is a technique of self-massage using warm oil.
At the time, I honestly thought the dry brushing thing sounded weird, and I was concerned the oil might give me zits. But in the spirit of exploring more deeply into the yoga practices and learning about my body, I started trying both of these techniques—and I was amazed how much they improved my mental and physical health. Both are simple and very low cost with TREMENDOUS BENEFIT.  
Now, I know exactly what you’re thinking: “When the heck do I have time for that?” I thought the same thing. To my knowledge, these techniques are traditionally recommended as part of your morning routine. But I was already getting up by 5 am for my meditation, so I use the dry brush and oil before bedtime, letting the oil soak in while I prepare my food for the next morning. This helps me get calm, inducing my “rest and digest” parasympathetic nervous system and preparing my entire being for rest.  
Remember, we have to nourish and tend to ourselves so we will be full to serve others. It’s also an act of self love to take care of yourself this way. Another benefit is increased circulation, both blood circulation (great for cold hands and feet) and lymph circulation. This gives the immune system a gentle nudge. OH—and your brain will release endorphins during these practices, too. I could list research, etc., but the benefits of these two techniques feel so wonderful that once you try them, you won’t need anymore proof! 


  
  
As hard as depression is to write about, I hope that sharing my experience, my own struggles, might help you dig deeper. I’m grateful that my teachers taught me to be curious and explore, to try things and see if they worked for ME. Maybe these techniques will bring some relief to you as well. 
Give it a whirl!!!  Let me know if it’s working for YOU too.
Peace, Love and Gratitude, 
Shannon

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