When I first got sick around age 22, I had already been practicing yoga for a couple of years. I had been experiencing some depression in college from the overwhelming amount of stress that I was under. A friend of mine who had been taking yoga classes at the local gym suggested that I try it. I remember after leaving my first class that my mood had lifted. It was amazing. From that moment on I was hooked, and I came to realize that yoga is a powerful tool for transformation, which proved very helpful to me in coping with and ultimately recovering from mental illness.
The practice of yoga and awareness-based meditation is all about presence, balance, strength, possibility, and moving through struggle into freedom. Not only does it ingrain these principles into the physical body, but the mind as well. It can be incredibly cleansing for the whole being, and allows for the release of stored emotions. When I first started getting sick, and my mind became unstable and detached from reality, the practice of yoga and meditation helped bring me back to my center. Even amidst the psychosis, I would be meditating to let go of the crazy thoughts I was having so that I could come back to being present in my body and in this moment. This also helped to allow me to release certain thoughts that didn’t serve me.
Yoga, as well as other awareness-based forms of exercise, such as Tai Chi, or even martial arts, can be powerful tools for training our mind and body. Through consistent practice, we develop healthy conditioning that carries over into other areas of our lives, and contributes to us leading a more balanced and healthy lifestyle. Now, I know more than most how difficult it can be to maintain a regular practice while being sick. The key is to just do a little bit when you can, and be extra forgiving of yourself. If the practice resonates for you, and has meaning for you, it will stay with you. During periods when you are practicing, just keep the momentum going. Then, if there are times that you stray from it, just know that you can come back to it when the time is right. Happy practicing!