Yoga for Sadness, Stress, and Depression: My Tool for a Day of Self-Compassion

Hi lovely readers,

Happy Friday :). It has been a long week, for me at least, or month, or 3 months, maybe… haha. This morning I woke up the same way I have been for quite a while; I felt heavy and yet anxious and wary of yet another 24 hours during which I would have to force myself to defy my depression and do ‘real person’ things. I made breakfast, and I did try to jazz things up a bit by actually cooking a pancake as opposed to my usual bowl of yogurt with granola on it and some coffee, sat down on the couch to eat, drank water, vaped, and tried to journal with a youtube video on in the background like I do every day, such that someone elses’ voice is in my apartment and I don’t feel so lonely. I finished eating and I picked up my journals (one for goals and affirmations, a gratitude one, and a free-write one) to keep to my routine of writing a bit to start my day with some clear intentions. I got a paragraph into my free-write and I felt this itch, which I haven’t felt in a while, that screamed to be scratched, to move my body.

This was super odd because, as a result of my very long depressive episode, I not only have no energy, but as a result of lying in bed for literally a week without so much as standing, I have a lot of muscle pain. It’s so intense that during the second shower I’d taken after that dreadful week, I moved my leg a certain way to shave and I felt a pain so sharp that I blacked out and came to on the tub floor. I managed to go for a walk yesterday, and it helped quite a bit, but still, this morning I woke up feeling like every bone in my body had popped out of its socket. I know that moving my body is the key here to resolving this pain issue, but again, I have no energy or concern for my own well-being lately, to be frank, so I wasn’t utilizing that option.

But I felt the itch, and I was elated by the notion of wanting to be active again, and frantic to find a workout video to follow on youtube. I realized that given my level of inactivity recently and my pain, I should probably not jump right into a “cardio fat burn abs and glutes for 10 pound weight loss in a month” video (nor should anyone ever really use those videos). So I searched for a yoga video, and my favorite instructor’s channel popped up.

‘Yoga with Adriene‘ is the name of the channel, and the instructor of course is a woman named Adrienne. Her channel is unique, to me, because the videos aren’t usually titled, “Yoga for Morning Energy” or “Yoga for Fat Burn” as most of the ones on youtube are; they’re typically titled based on, and in what is done during the class is geared towards, helping people experiencing stress, sadness, depression, anxiety, frustration, low self-esteem, low self-worth, etc. My ex girlfriend showed me her channel, and I doubt she reads my blog, but if she does I’m sending another thank you her way.

It took me a long time to give in and try one of her videos, in a moment I was at a loss for alternative ideas for helping me in a really sad time. I thought, having done a lot of yoga at a studio that was really challenging and strength-geared (which is great sometimes, too), “How can a yoga instructor be so bold as to say she can teach a class that helps depression?”

But, in the poses and flows she chooses, and also largely in part in the way she talks to her viewers, Adriene actually does, at least for me, and, it seems, a ton of viewers who’ve commented, make me feel, not only during but also after her classes, significantly less depressed. I think this has a lot to do with not only feeling so deeply cared for by her, but also, she finds, somehow, exactly the right tone and words to encourage you effectively to care about yourself. I’ve heard the words “‘give yourself a big hug and then release” in a yoga class before, but no one’s ever told me why I deserve to hug my knees close to my chest and breathe and feel good, while I was doing a yoga flow/at the end of holding a pose. Her adorable dog is also always on the mat or just behind in it in her videos too, which doesn’t hurt. But primarily, it’s that she seems to be such a natural empath, she’s able to articulate in a way that feels so genuine to her viewers how each pose is for them to release their sadness, their fear, their stress, their negative self-talk, because they deserve so much more than to be under duress, at least while she asks you to be in that pose and doing her class.

I actually cried in a pose this morning. It sounds so silly, but I felt such immense gratitude, relief, and as though I’d finally been granted permission to love myself just a little, enough to do something that would stop me from being followed by the pain in my body from this muscle tension.

I finished the class and went to shower, and without thinking about it, I actually adjusted the temperature so that I wasn’t too hot or too cold (in my depression I’ve just been turning the taps to a guessing point and been literally so disengaged and resigned that I’ll stand in burning hot water or freezing cold water, as my taps are finicky, for 15 minutes to get clean if I bother to shower at all), and then I noticed I was doing so, and my first thought was, “I deserve to have a nice shower and enjoy the feeling of the water on my skin like I used”.

I have an extensive “self-care routine” that I’ll do most days in a depressive episode, unless I’m unable to even put my feet on the floor and stay awake, but for months now I’ve been doing it and just going through the motions, so much so that I randomly put moisturizer on my body instead of body wash in the shower, and don’t even notice for a minute, because I’m just zoned out paying attention to how uncomfortable I am having to move even a little bit and wishing I could just lie down and sleep such that I could pretend I wasn’t alive anymore.

I can’t speak to what clinical depression is like; I have Bipolar 1 depressive episodes. In my experience, with these particular kind of depressive episodes, I am truly in so much constant emotional pain and physical discomfort that most of my thoughts are repetitious versions of the same thing, which is a desire to no longer be alive. I have no energy whatsoever, it feels as though I’ve never eaten or worked out in my life and I’m so weak and fragile I could collapse at any moment, little annoyances or mild pains are intolerable. Say I tapped my wrist against the table on my way to the kitchen: on a normal day for me, and I think most people, I’d probably pause for a second and be like “ugh oops” and then continue on and not think about it ever again. But if I do that and I’m in the pits of a depressive episode, I sometimes actually cry, even sob, and I often exclaim “FUCK ARE YOU FUCKING SERIOUS”, or a very loud “Ow”, and I’m not being like weirdly dramatic, nor am I dramatic person in that sense at all, ever – if anything I have a bizarrely high pain tolerance and it’s been problematic in the past – it just actually feels like my whole body is taking on that little pain in my wrist, and my brain is shuddering at the fact, I think, that I am SO sad and low energy and miserable and hopeless and THEN I actually, because I’m ‘useless and stupid’, added to all of that intolerable discomfort by physically hurting myself, just a little bit, and it’s all too much. I have crumpled to the floor and sat in a ball crying next to the TV stand before because I knocked my knee against it and I just can’t. take. anymore. shit. happening.

All of my thoughts during a depressive episode that aren’t to do with ending my life are about how badly I’m doing things, how stupid I am, how wrong I am, how I could be doing something differently and I’m terrible for not doing it, and how incapable I am of ever living a normal life that’s somewhat happy and stable. I will put a cup down on the table in front of me so I can drink it while I watch something, and I’ll look at the way I put the cup down and think “You could have done that better. Look at how it’s positioned. You can’t do anything right. AND it’s insane that you’re even thinking about this – normal people wouldn’t even notice. What’s wrong with you.” Imagine doing that for every waking moment of your day.

Even just articulating that made me shiver a little and I feel an ache in my chest, because I feel fearful I will lose the calm, content feeling I gained earlier this morning. But, I actually kind of know I won’t, because the message I hear most clearly doing her videos and after, is that at any time, I can take deep breaths, I can wrap my arms around myself and hug myself, hell, I can lie on the floor and close my eyes with my arms at my side and just be. And I can give myself some loving care and kindness, physically, which is much easier for me than the work I keep attempting with changing thought patterns mentally, though I hope someday soon that will be accessible.

So, lovely reader, I really highly recommend you check out Adriene’s channel should you feel her practices might be of some help to you. I am not going to be stubborn anymore; I plan to actually listen to the advice of basically every professional who treats depression and anxiety online and incorporate a yoga practice into every morning. And I’m going to do it before I continue on to the rest of my self-care, because if I don’t do those kind things for myself with the intention of showing myself some TLC, then, in my experience, I may as well not bother at all. If you click anywhere I listed the channel name then you’ll find her videos.

I hope you have a day of self-compassion and kindness and, potentially, love, my dear reader.

Lots of love,

Liz

3 thoughts on “Yoga for Sadness, Stress, and Depression: My Tool for a Day of Self-Compassion

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