Mental Health Awareness Week: Lucy's Story
In the digital era we face an ironic epidemic of disconnection. An ever increasing pace of life and the constant intervening interface of social media have come with some undesirable side effects.
Mental Health Awareness Week serves a potent purpose in bringing our awareness to the stresses that surround us daily and the significant effect they can have if not addressed. It helps us to understand that mental health is not a final diagnosis, but a spectrum that we are all arranged along and further, that mental health applies both individually and trans personally as a reflection of the quality of our communities.
Most importantly, through opening honest dialogue, it breaks down the barriers that prevent people from recognising the need for support in themselves or in others and crucially feeling empowered in taking the steps to accept it.
This year, the Mental Health foundation have chosen to focus on body image and its increasing influence on our mental health. For more details about the campaign and national events visit https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/campaigns/mental-health-awareness-week
Yoga is a potent tool both for addressing the imbalances of daily stresses, and for tackling the bigger issues that we are all likely to face in one form or another at some point in our lives.
It not only gives us physical and breath based practices that serve to invigorate and rebalance our bodyminds but further, creates a complete framework that teaches us compassion, acceptance and ignites our innermost strengths.
It is no surprise then, that when we greet new students many are looking for tools to help manage their stresses and their struggles, and we are always so happy to watch as bit by bit those weights are lifted and those energies transformed.
This Mental Health Awareness Week we wanted to join the discussion and share some of the ways that yoga practice has transformed the lives of our community in the hope that for someone somewhere it will be just the right piece of information, at just the right time. Over the next week we will be bringing you different stories and techniques that will hopefully help you begin to understand just how the power of yoga can help you achieve balance in your mental health, and happiness in your skin! “
Look out for the #makemindbodypeace, and please join in the discussion with us!
- The YogaTherapies Team.
Our first story comes from Lucy
”Yoga changed my life. On my mat, each week I’d get that little bit stronger, which is what I needed because I was so weak. Not just stronger physically, stronger mentally too. I would learn to appreciate the things my body could do once I started to fuel my body and eat right.
Over 3 years ago I was suffering from Anorexia. It developed slowly at first, with factors such as social media playing a strong but unnoticed role, and then suddenly it was a problem. I was so unhappy in my skin, and none of the avenues I attempted to change those feelings made any lasting positive impact until I found Yoga.
Of course it wasn’t that easy. Although in some ways its was simple. There is a famous quote attributed to Patabhi Jois referencing the Bhagavad Gita, “Practice and all is coming.” And that’s what I did. At first blindly, and then gradually with increasing awareness, understanding and skill.
When I first came to yoga I found the flowing and repetitive sequences of the sun salutations would begin to ground and use up some of the anxious energy that I felt daily. I began to experience snippets of peace amongst the daily chaos of my mind. As my focus was entrained on the rhythmic movement of my body my mind began to loose its hold. Moments at first, and then longer and longer stretches.
As my body began to grow stronger physically, I began to feel a new desire to fuel that body. I was excited to explore it’s potential, and curious to understand the changes I was experiencing. My diet began to change, at first only immediately around my practice, but then expanded as i began to understand my Yoga not as an isolated event in my day, but an active part of my entire life.
As the physical practice developed, my focus began to shift more deeply again, to the coordination of the breath and movements. Just flowing with my breath had such a huge impact on my mental state and my self confidence. There was an energy inside of me that was soft, but persistent and once acknowledged, that awareness would start to permeate through the rest of my life. I moved beyond an understanding that food was a chemical equation… the assimilation of the required energy to practice, and instead began to listen to the tone and the quality of that energy. Today I am tired, and that’s okay, I will follow my breath and move slowly… or today I am vibrant and ready to challenge my edges. I began to understand what it meant to ‘listen to my body’. An understanding that moves so much beyond understanding and apply healthy principles, less of the eat this apple because its good for you mentality and more of the eat this apple because right now it will feed me on many levels.
I continued to connect with my body and began to see the absolute beauty of it.
Eventually, my meditation practice became more than those blissful first periods of respite and took on new challenge as it became active time to sit with some of the most difficult and persistent thoughts and begin the process of dissembling the fabrication they were built on. Finally I felt like I was beginning to truly address my earlier problems at the root and I was strong enough to do so.
It took a lot for me to reach that point, and I am sure there is more work to be done, but I am eternally grateful of the commitment I made simply to practice without knowing where it would take me.
I am now proud to be teaching and passionate about sharing the transformative power of yoga. I want to help more people start working towards being healthy, mentally and physically, and to feel the same love for their bodies that I now feel, no matter where they are or what difficulty they are facing.”