By Jana Hill
Today, my anxiety and depression are cured. It’s a functional cure. It works for the hour, or for two, or four, or for the day.
I have managed and at times slayed my depression and anxiety with exercise, for the past three decades and then some. My cure is functional: a “functional cure” is something that the medical community quips, usually to describe a pharmaceutical treatment. Yoga is that, for me. And my daily cure has been yoga, or running, or hiking, or step aerobics, or swimming.
Exercise in any rigorous and regular form is that, for me. It is a functional cure.
The best doctors will confirm that: if you exercise, your depression and your anxiety will be lessened. If you have severe forms of the physiological glitch that is anxiety-and-depression, medication may be needed at times, or all the time. But yoga can accompany that treatment, serving as a powerful complementary “medicine.”
As I have moved and breathed for the three decades that depression and anxiety have bullied me, I have learned what helps. Yoga is ideal. My study and practice has taught me that the physiological state of the body often matches the physiological state of the mind. We slouch, protecting internal organs, and the body hears the message: your action of slouching tells the body that the organs need protection. The mind hears the body, and perceives a threat. It reacts. It releases stress-hormones to assist in confronting the threat. That release will exhaust you.
Yoga is a reset for that messaging of the mind and body. In yoga poses, we open the chest. That opening tells the mind that the organs do not need protection from slouching — that it’s okay to feel calm. We stand in Warrior II, in a body position that message the mind — “I am unafraid.” The subconscious mind hears our message, and depression lifts. We curl up in the fetal position in Child’s pose, and the body hears that we are safe in our mother’s womb. We are enveloped and protected, and awash with calm. We recline in savasana, and the subconscious mind says we are feeling safe and trusting enough to close our eyes: so, all must be well.
If you have the medical version of anxiety and depression, yoga and exercise cannot cure you permanently. But yoga can help: I can show you the toolbox that I go to, in yoga, to calm my mind and lift my spirits. It is physiological manipulation where we move in flowing motions, breathe as if all is well, and train the mind to quiet itself, even under trying circumstances.
With enough practice, you may find that of all of the exercise-options, proven by countless studies to alleviate the symptoms of anxiety and depression, this one — this yoga — it has something more.
On April 15, from 2-4 at Movement Arts on Camano Island, I will hold a workshop, teaching the tools that I use in yoga, to manage anxiety and depression. We will not talk about our feelings: we will not “share” why we are depressed or anxious, because I am not a counselor. I am the child of two addictions counselors. I respect the talk-therapy craft. But yoga is not talk-therapy. It is the deepest form of inner silence.
Yoga can help you do what Patanjali teaches, in the yoga sutras:
“Yoga is stilling the fluctuations of one’s conciousness.”
Come practice with me. I promise I will not pressure you to share your private thoughts. I also promise that the movement and breathing and stillness-seeking yoga offers can calm the mind. I have done a nearly two-decade-long study, with just one subject: me.
I’ll see you there.