This week is mental health awareness week so what better a reason to get the blog started with something that is still classed as a taboo subject and has a stigma that surrounds it out there in the open – let’s talk Mental Health.
Thank goodness it is talked about a lot more than it used to be, but it still can be toe-curling awkward for people and yourself if you are suffering when you turn around and say, “oh yes”, I suffer with depression, anxiety, body dysmorphia, addiction (just a few examples) it's not like to you drop the fact that you self-harm into conversation on a night out with friends is it?
You can't see it, but it is everywhere, NHS England reports that 1 in 4 adults and 1 in 10 children experience mental illness, remember these are only the report stats, many people suffer in silence without seeking help from the NHS. Personally, I think if you could see a mental health illness people would be more open to talk about it, the next time you caught up with a friend you wouldn't ignore an arm or leg in plaster, would you? But, the fact we can't see it and that we don't suddenly have a warning light above our head with an alarm firing off saying 'I have a mental health problem' (blimey, imagine if that were so) makes it all the easier to hide. But why do we hide, why are we ashamed to say 'I am not okay' - why do we still persist with the 'stiff British upper lip' and use those words 'I am fine' when really, we are not, we feel pretty broken inside.
I am not a doctor, phycologist, counsellor or any kind of medical expert for that matter, but I am someone who has experienced mental health problems first hand and although everybody experiences things differently, I do know what it feels like to feel so low, so anxious, so unworthy of living you don't even want to get out of bed. There, I said it, whether I am not wired right, whether it was choices I made, whether it's because I am a deeply sensitive soul, whether it's just because, who knows, that's the thing with mental health issues, they can affect ANYONE, at any given time. Next time you are in a supermarket, on the train, in a yoga class, remember that 1 in 4 of the people will be suffering, maybe more. So, why am I prattling on about this and what has it got to do with yoga? Oh, it has EVERYTHING to do with yoga, for me, anyway.
When I first stepped on the mat (actually it was the second time I stepped on the mat, the first time was a disaster dahhhling ~ read in your best Craig Revel Horwood voice) I was a bit of, no, understatement, a BIG mess. I had trained myself not to feel, I had trained myself to become a robot, a zombie, going through the motions of day to day life, 'being strong' and trying to keep it all together, I detached from myself and my emotions, I couldn’t feel, I couldn't let go… I felt like I was swimming constantly underwater unable to breath, then I stepped on the mat and BOOM…. there is was, my head came above that water for a brief moment, I took a massive gulp of air, felt like 'ME' for a second and then went back under. But I wanted that feeling again and again and again so I kept going to my mat and under the direction of the wonderful Helen, I breathed that beautiful air a little longer each time, I smiled, I cried, I worked out the anger, I laughed, I opened my heart on the mat - do you know how good it feels to cry when you haven’t been able to for years! Yoga was my saviour, I make jokes in class, 'it's only yoga' but these are always said tongue in cheek, yoga really did save my life. It's that 'yogi high' that feeling of re-setting myself, that moment of bliss when awakening from Savasana, connecting back to myself that brings me back to the mat, time after time, after time, it's a journey, one practice is not going to fix all, but dedication, the desire to want to feel like you again, even if you have forgotten what it feels like to be you, I encourage you to give yoga a go.... Breathe the air, move the body, loose that voice in your mind for just a moment ~ feel again!
If you are suffering, please reach out to someone, whether it be a friend, loved one, or if you prefer to speak to someone neutral there are lots of people that can and will help, YOU matter, remember that.
Great for anxiety, connecting back to yourself, stepping away from your crazy busy mind for just a few moments, your breath is your friend and all good yoga practice starts with the breath ~ Pranayama. Close down your eyes, inhale and exhale smoothly through the nose (use your mouth if congested) and take at least 6 to 10 breaths in each ~ feel those calm vibes!
As easy as 1,2,3 Child’s Pose ~ Balasana. Just relax and ease yourself into this posture, stick with whichever variation suits your amazing body!