Kim Lewis is a yoga instructor at Just B Yoga. She teaches 40+ Yoga and workshops on depression and yoga.
It’s been a few weeks since I dipped into depression, but I’m finding my way out now. And this experience has me
questioning my yoga practice. After all, I teach workshops to others about how to use yogic techniques to heal depression.
What does it say about me if I get depressed? Does it make me a phony if I’m not depression free? And does it shake
my faith in the power of yoga?
This depression would probably have been just a little dip, but then I couldn’t do my usual asana practice because of tendonitis in my heels. I like to do about 10 sun salutes to get warmed up, so it’s a big change to practice seated postures without that flow to get started. And it’s hard to sit if I haven’t been moving first. Just goes to
show what it takes to begin to settle my mind. But that was the way it had to be for a little while.
And so I slipped in a little deeper.
Those familiar feelings. Waking up in the morning with limbs of lead. Mind spinning uselessly. Sometimes having to tell myself to move each limb, piece by piece – just to keep moving. My breath shallow, sometimes barely perceptible. That feeling of wading through a dark, swamp.
What would I usually do when my mood dips? Usually, I move, I breathe. But more importantly, I can make a connection to the part of myself that can watch what’s happening to my mind.
In yoga this is known as the Witness – the part of us that sees what is happening and can step back to watch without becoming entangled in the experience. But it’s hard to make that connection when your thoughts are very dark. When you are disconnected from reality. When the idea of death is always hanging around. It’s uncomfortable to watch.
And yet, that Witness was also telling me that I’ve seen this before. And I’ve seen such dark moods lift before. The connection was still there – a thin thread that I could hang onto. I believed that things would change. Before developing my yoga practice, I sometimes felt that these unbearable feelings would never go away. Sometimes the darkness gripped me for months at a time.
But this time it felt more like trudging across a rough, muddy field shrouded with fog, and I knew the fog would lift.
So, really, the lifeline of my yoga practice was there all the time. My true Self, the quiet, still, place at my core, was there.
There are always new lessons to be learned. I don’t want to deal with these moods, but there is a gift inside. I come out reassured that can make it out. And surely these experiences build compassion within me for others who are suffering.
How about my faith in yoga? For a while, it seemed to shake a little, but now it stands firm again – and it gets stronger through every test along the way.