Yoga & Depression: How Yoga gave me back my life.
Updated: Mar 22, 2019
In 2015 I had what can only be described as a breakdown. After years of anxiety, I reached a tipping point after the break down of a 7 year relationship. The break up was completely amicable which is why it was such a shock to me when 6 months after the break up, I plummeted into what I later found out was depression.
Everyone noticed how well I had dealt with the break up but why wouldn't I? 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 tend to agree. It was like years of repressed emotions starting to leak out and 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. 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, started sessions in floatation tanks. I was looking for the magic thing that would just fix everything but it just wasn't happening.
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 and that 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, get a cab, 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 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 it is so much more than that. Yoga gave me the tools I needed to manage stress, anxiety and everything in between. I use these tools every day without even realising it and have done things I never though I could because of my anxiety.
My experience made me driven to share my story so people don't feel so alone and over time this has turned into my passion as a Yoga Teacher. I want to offer support to anyone experiencing anything from every day stress all the way to anxiety and panic attacks through the tools I found in Yoga.
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 so you can find whatever works best for you, there are no rules:
1. Yoga classes on-line
I have tried quite a few of these including Yoga with Adriene on YouTube (free), Ekhart Yoga, Movement for Modern Life and the one I am using now is Gaia. If you are restricted by time or finances these can be a great option with quite an array of choices. I use them to supplement face to face classes especially when I don't feel like being around other people. I do find it harder to fully stay present in my own home though, too many distractions and things to do.
2. Local Classes
Where you live does dictate your choice but most places, even out in the countryside, 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.
There is nothing more transformative than the intensive nature of a retreat. Stepping away from your daily routine can give you such great perspective and also spark the beginning of a new routine when you do go home again.
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. Another way to go deeper into the practice of Yoga and how it can help make positive change in your life.
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 and documentaries
Part of my journey has been becoming more mindful of the media I mindlessly consumed, I started to replace crap TV with books and documentaries around the subject of Yoga. Recently getting very immersed in a series on Gaia and before that I read quite a few books. 'The Fearless Life Guide' by M.J.Robertson was probably the most impactful, a no bullshit guide to living your life using some of the key tools of Yoga resulting in more peace, happiness and general fun in my life!
Where to start?
With so many options out there it is good to try what you feel drawn to, a mixture is often a good way to start to give you an overall insight into what you like without getting too overwhelmed.
More about me
I started teaching Yoga so I could share all the tools that changed my life for the better. I specialise in offering classes and private sessions designed to help people manage anything from everyday stress through to anxiety and panic attacks. Every session offers aspects of Yoga that can be taken beyond the mat and into every day life so you can live a happier, less stressful, more joyful life.