How to Use Yoga to Help Overcome Stress, Anxiety, & Depression

By Jennifer Dixon MBA ERYT 500 – I hope this “fall” morning is crisp (ish) and just cool enough to be a tease of the changes that are coming! Although this week has been more summer than fall, the mornings have been the very first hint of changes that are coming. For a gal that loves the heat, I greet these fall mornings with a little bit of excitement and a little bit of resentment. After all, fall is a short season and winter sometimes feels like it goes on FOREVER!

I was contemplating the excited trepidation I was feeling about with these cooling temperatures this morning while checking on our chickens (yes, we have them and yes, they FINALLY started giving us eggs!) I was excited that my husband and I could finally take the kids out into the woods and not have to worry quite so much about the heat, hydration, bugs, you name it, but then I immediately started dreading the fact that the time change was about to happen and how it was going to be dark at like 4:30, and freezing, and wet for an eternity, and my morning hope quickly started dissipating.

Have you ever had a morning or a downward spiral internal dialogue like that? I mean, I opened the door feeling somewhat refreshed because it finally wasn’t oppressive and then within 5 minutes I was sliding down that slippery slope of winter blues even though it was still closer to 80 than 30.

Our minds are powerful, and our tongues are even more so (but that’s a conversation for another day.  It’s when those slippery slopes start showing up that you and I both have a choice.

We can make the choice to slide on down that black hole of despair or we can make the choice to be like these cats that don’t want to get wet. Those cats want nothing to do with the bath, just like you and I should want nothing to do with that slippery slope.  These cats do everything in their power to remove themselves from the threat of the bath, just like we should every time the downward spiral happens.

I’m not saying freak out, put your arms and legs in opposite directions, start clawing at everything in sight and scream/meow your distaste, but I am saying maybe when the slippery slope starts happening, that we take action (like those cats did) to arrest the fall. Take ACTION. That’s a powerful statement right there.

What does it mean to Take Action?

In this case, when you take action to stop the thought processes that lead to nothing edifying (or good), it means doing something/anything to cause your mind to stop its current trajectory and move towards something else. Your brain, your body, your entire being is capable of this, and even more, it WANTS this!

You already know how stress, anxiety, and depression (SAD) are literally killing people every day. The toxicity of stress builds in yours and my body and it is evidenced by things like belly fat, sleep loss, literal pain in your body and so much more. Your mind is your number one weapon here in the battle against the SAD tyrants.

Here’s where your regular, consistent yoga practice can help. When you practice yoga, your body and mind are connected through your movement and breath. This connection grows over time and with practice. This connection also helps to strengthen your mind because as you move through the poses, your body and mind can sometimes have…”disagreements.” What do I mean by that? I mean, when you’re in a forward fold and your hamstrings are on fire, your mind tells you to stay in this pose because your mind knows how good it is for your body to move. Likewise, when you’re in a balance pose and your standing leg is ON FIRE, and you are wobbling in the wind and your body is telling your mind there is no way on this earth that you can EVER hold this pose so long…it’s your mind that keeps telling you to try. That’s because of these two things:

  1. You are strong.
  2. You are capable.

Just like in your yoga class when you overcome those physical obstacles, you can overcome the mental obstacles, with practice.

That means, the next time you notice the downward spiral of your thoughts, rather than let yourself speed headfirst into the black pit, start to practice your yoga. Maybe it is your yoga breathing, or maybe it’s actually moving through a few poses. Whatever it is, just do it. You’ll find that by taking action, your mind has to stop that slide and refocus on the new thing, the yoga, and before you know it your mind and body are feeling better, more alert, calmer, and most definitely better off.

Ok, not gonna lie here, this isn’t always easy. For something like impending winter, that’s a little easier to work through than some of life’s super serious stress or anxiety laden issues. That’s ok. Again, let’s turn to your yoga practice.  Just like in yoga, as you continue to practice, the poses start to get easier, so you are challenged with more, new, different challenges.  It’s the small growth through the smaller challenges that add up to make you stronger and stronger for the big challenges.

You may want to know what happened with me this morning.

Well, I started to get upset about the loss of my summer and how soon I’d have to wear something besides flip-flops when I stopped to look up and take a breath. The next thing I knew, my kids came running outside and the chickens came running to them and I started thinking about how awesome it was to witness this experience with them right here and right now. It was small, but it was all I needed to not think about what was upsetting me, and the rest is history!

I hope that you can notice the next time your mind starts to try to take you someplace you’d rather not be and that you can use your breath and your practice to help arrest that thought and move you towards something more uplifting and positive.  If you’d like to start a personal yoga practice, why don’t you join us here at Thrive Yoga and Wellness located in the beautiful Chattanooga Area.  We also offer free resources on Youtube, and when you’re ready to take it to the next level, check out our Mommy Bounceback Program, and completely online Yoga Course that provides you with over 3 hours of strengthening, flexibility building, stress-busting video sequences that’ll help you learn that, YES, YOU CAN!