November 5, 2015

On Depression & Staying Present: What Yoga has Taught Me About Time.

Photo: Elise Hu

Last November I attended a Bikram Yoga master class taught by long time Bikram Yoga teacher Mary Jarvis and during class, speaking of trauma, she said something that really resonated with me. It was something along the lines of, “If you’re in the present moment, it’s impossible to be sad.”

This quotation has led to me to seek answers to what it means to “be present.” The thought of staying present and alleviating my sadness was something I wanted to seek.

I repeat this line to myself daily, both on and off of the mat and it has shifted my perspective of my depression, my yoga practice, and time itself.

Depression was the one aspect of my life I was always quiet about, despite the fact that it was so much more relevant than I would have liked to admit. A quote by Hannah R that quickly went viral, summarises the feelings I experienced behind closed doors all too often:

“Depression. Sometimes it’s screaming and crying and smashing plates. Sometimes it’s numbness and quiet and “oh god why am I not dead.” And sometimes it’s getting up anyways and staying alive, even if you don’t want to.”

I’ve been fortunate enough to have grown up around strong people, specifically my father, who taught me to have a mindset mirroring the last sentence of the quote. So many times it came down to “getting up anyway and staying alive” even if I didn’t want to.

Sometimes I wasn’t sure how to do it and all I knew was that I had to stick around because just maybe something good would come of it. Today, I’m extremely glad I did. To the 350 million people who are currently struggling with depression: It gets better. I promise. Hang in there.

Three years ago I threw myself into a 105 degree room at 40 percent humidity, for 90 minutes every day and did yoga. Bikram Yoga. I had no idea this practice would soon transform my life and my perspective on almost everything.

Michele Vennard, my friend and my teacher who I’m so grateful to know, recently said that “Bikram Yoga teaches us to appreciate life without trauma.” So often we don’t appreciate life until something bad happens, like losing a loved one, then suddenly, we realize the value of living life.

My yoga practice teaches me to appreciate life without going through trauma. I stare at myself in the mirror for 90 minutes, I do these postures, I connect my mind to my body, I work hard, and by the end of the session, I’m proud of what I’ve done and I’m high on life. I feel renewed, revitalized, and re-energized.

Yoga has revealed to me an intense appreciation for living.

Time has no place in my yoga practice. This is where staying present comes in. It breaks the meditation. Over the years I have learned a few things about staying present, including how to detach from the clock.

We all have schedules, meaning that at some point in our day we need to be somewhere at a certain time. We can’t be late or too early, so we watch the clock and plan that special time when we need to leave where we are to be at the next place at that specific, preplanned time. This is the mindset that I’ve learned to let go in my practice.

Breathe, stay in the room and focus on your own eyes in the front mirror. There is so much to be revealed within when you focus on yourself. Don’t think about whether it is too hot or too cold. Let go of expectations, detach from results, and appreciate what is, while letting go of what comes. This is yoga. This is that special place that I have learned to find comfort. It’s a place that takes me out of my mind and deeper into my Self.

These principles have helped me combat the feelings of depression outside of the hot room. I stay present, I acknowledge my feelings, but I don’t hold onto them.

When I’m having a bad day, I use what I learn in the hot room: I breathe, stay present, and smile because I know that tomorrow will be a new day and I hold the potential to make it better.

Similarly, that 90 minute long, scorching hot Bikram Yoga class will also come to an end (and then I’ll come back again tomorrow).

In short, yoga has taught me that time goes on. If you’re struggling with depression, I highly recommend you try a yoga class and see how you feel after a few weeks of practice.

Keep moving. It’s going to be okay.


Author: Robin Fox

Editor: Katarina Tavčar

Photo: Author’s own

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