I have known for a long time that my yoga practice is an irreplaceable tool in helping me keep my mental health in balance. Many times I have been asked how it helps me, and my answer is usually that I am more aware of what is going on with me. Which isn’t always a wonderful explanation. Below is a wonderful description from my high school friend, Jenni, which explains the benefits of yoga and meditation in such a tangible way. Not only is Jenni a yogini, but is also a social worker with her own counselling business, Inner Calm Counselling.
Yoga teaches us deep awareness of our bodies. With this awareness we notice our early signs of stress and can then take time to readjust/realign/centre ourselves and continue on grounded and balanced. With a lot of awareness of our bodies and early notice of the signs of stress, it is likely that we can avoid further upset in our lives... noticing the tightness in our chest and readjusting before saying sharp words to our dearest people (or slamming the kitchen cupboard).
Yoga teaches us breathing practices - an amazing variety of breathing practices - that quickly help us remind the fight/flight/freeze part of our brains that we are in fact safe (which we, fortunately, almost always are). When we use a breathing practice regularly, not just when we begin reeling in worry or anger, we approach everything with a greater sense of calm and awareness. Focus on our breath automatically brings us to experience the moment we are in.
Meditation teaches us deep awareness of our minds. With this awareness we notice when we’re caught up in a loop (going over the tough conversation with a colleague) or planning how the evening will play out while planting in your garden. When we notice such things we can gently bring ourselves back to being in the moment that we are actually in - to actually be present in it.
Yoga and meditation are certainly powerful tools for when we experience mental health challenges like depression and anxiety. They’re healthy ways to cope when in an extremely hard situation.
As a daily wellness tool, yoga and meditation are incredible maintenance and prevention plans. When all is well and we practice, our connection to our breath deepens; our mindfulness of each moment becomes more natural; our awareness of our thoughts and attachments gets clearer. So when life’s next challenge comes, we are stronger, more grounded, more compassionate toward ourselves.
We’re on this journey together.
Jenni Jenkins, MSW, RSW
Inner Calm Counselling