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Yoga & Depression: How Yoga Saved My Vegan Bacon and Could Do the Same for You!

October 5, 2017

I have to start this blog with a bit of a lighthearted joke because the reality is that this is a bit of a dark story but it does have a happy ending!

 

The Breakdown 

In 2015 I had what can only be described as a breakdown. After years of anxiety, I reached a tipping point with a massive change in my life, the break down of a 7 year relationship. The break up was completely amicable and we ended up being really great friends, which is why it was such a shock to me when 6 months after the break up, I plummeted into what I was told was depression. Everyone noticed how well I had dealt with the break up and I was so confused by that (because of course I would be). We both knew that it was crazy we hadn't broken up years before. What I hadn’t realised was that with all the powering on and listening to my "sensible" mind, which explained the logic of the situation, I was actually denying a completely normal emotional response to such a big change. I was living alone for the first time in my life, dating again for the first time since I was 20, I had a mortgage to pay on my own and most importantly, I was no longer living with my best mate. They say that the longer you deny emotions, the harder they hit you and I would agree. It was like years of repressed emotion decided it was time to come out. I crashed hard. 

The moment I realised it was bad was a day I will never forget. I was at my parents house with my nephew. Now, anyone who knows me knows that my nephew is my world - I have never felt love like that! But this day I distinctly remember playing with him and him hugging me but I couldn't feel anything. I mean, I knew I still loved him but I couldn't feel it. I felt numb. The tears just kept falling out but I didn't even feel sad. I was stood in the utility room looking into the fridge tears streaming down my face and my dad came over to me and said “Katie, this isn't you. Something is wrong, you need to talk to someone”. That was the moment I knew. He was right. I needed help big time. This wasn't something I could do alone because I had no idea how.

 

I wish I could say that was the turning point but it wasn’t, it got worse. I was taking steps to understand how to work through this, seeing a therapist, I was signed off work, I started slowing down, getting out in nature, I started sessions in floatation tanks but I was desperately hoping someone would just fix it for me. On my 28th birthday I found out a childhood friend of mine took his own life and it shook my world hard, because in that moment I heard the news, I understood it. I want to be really clear, I have never considered taking my own life, I was lucky that it never got that bad for me. But I also know that people who take their own life do not want to die, they just want it to stop. Whatever their battle is, anxiety, depression, addiction, they just want it to stop, and I understood that feeling. It completely terrified me. There were times I got so scared that I would call my mum in tears because I just couldn't stop crying and I would get panic attacks from the complete overwhelming feelings. I lived about 40 minutes drive from my parents and my mum would send my dad to pick me up and I would stay at their house. I used to call them "rescue missions" and that’s pretty much what they were to me. I was scared to be alone.

 

The Turning Point

It was one of these "rescue mission" nights, a Saturday, I was in a complete state, pacing around my flat, panicking and so, I called my mum. She told me they were out and had been drinking so they couldn't come and get me this time. I had a choice, call a friend or try to deal with this myself. I found somewhere in between...Google! I googled how to help depression for probably the millionth time and I saw yoga and I remembered that I did yoga when my anxiety was bad before and it worked. Maybe, just maybe, it could help. It was worth a try so I found a video by Esther Ekhart called “Yoga for Depression” I got on my mat and cried my way through the class, by the end of it, the uncontrollable sobs were easing and I felt calmer. I was able to get into bed and sleep. That was the turning point, from that point I gradually built up the ability to help myself and rebuild my life. Yoga was the solid foundation for that. I built in regular classes to my week, both online classes at Ekhart Yoga and group classes in a studio round the corner from my flat. I started Yoga Teacher Training with the sole aim to go deeper into my practice and understand why it helped me so much. I had no intention of teaching yoga at the time, I just wanted to know more.

 

Yoga changed my life, obviously it became my career, as I am now a teacher, but more than that, it gave me a way to manage the full range of my emotions. Of course, I still forget sometimes and will find myself starting to feel a bit edgy and overwhelmed and then I will remember- oh yeah, do some yoga and you will feel better. Works every time!

How to Make Yoga Part of Your Life

If you are thinking of trying yoga or going deeper in your practice there are so many options out there and I have tried most of them:

 

1. Online Sites

I have tried quite a few of these but my favourite by far is https://www.ekhartyoga.com. They have amazing teachers and also a massive range for all abilities. They have programmes if you are focusing on something, talks and articles. It is only the price of one yoga class in a studio per month so, it's totally affordable.

 

 

2. Local Classes

Where you live does dictate your choice but most places, even out in the sticks, has at least one yoga class nowadays. If you have the luxury of choice then try different types out. I am a lover of flow type classes as they piece together poses so you flow between moves. For me, this is perfect as it keeps my brain busy.  I think, just try them out and see what you like. I often find it is the combination of the teacher and type of yoga that makes a class. It doesn't mean some teachers are necessarily better than others, it is more about compatibility and resonance for me.

 

 

3. ​Retreats

There is nothing more transformative than the intensive nature of a retreat. I have been to quite a few and every time I have come back and my life has changed sometimes quite dramatically. It is why I mainly teach at retreats, I know this is where I can help people the most to go back to their normal lives and make a change that sticks.

 

4. Workshops

If going away for a week isn't available to you then the next best thing is a workshop. 2-3 hours or even a day of yoga, meditation and talks. I love attending these and hosting these for the same reason I love retreats. An hour of yoga sometimes just isn't enough!

 

 

5. Yoga Teacher Training

 

This isn't just for teachers. I know I ended up teaching but that wasn't the original intention. Teacher Training allows you to get deeper into the origin of yoga which is incredible for getting under the skin of the practice. It changed my practice from just following exactly what a teacher said and became more about my connection to my own body. There are loads of different types out there. I prefer the more philosophy based ones but if you aren't sure then attend some classes with the lead teacher to get a feel for whether you are compatible.

 

 

6. Books

I am obsessed with reading and could talk about books all day. If I have to pick two I recommend the most they are “Yoga beyond the mat” by Alanna Kaivalya and if you are interested in the Sutras but like me, looked at the first page and thought, nope! Try “The Secret Power of Yoga” by Nischala Joy Devi. 

 

I recommend doing a combination of the above options as it gives you an all round experience. Just doing classes online means you miss the real person connection but it is a great thing to include with face to face classes, workshops and retreats to make yoga more accessible financially and physically if your yoga studio isn't on your doorstep!

 

Check out All to Love and Kit Kat Yoga for Retreats & Workshops if you are feeling inspired! I am passionate about sharing my experience with people to support them in transforming their lives.

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