Jul 27 / Lizzie York

Yoga Saved My Mental Health

It is not an exaggeration to say that yoga has saved my mental health. However, it wasn’t an overnight success!

In 2013 I was suffering from anxiety and depression, I felt constantly dizzy, everything seemed bleak, my life felt completely out of control and I coped by thrashing myself out running and at CrossFit. I rushed through life without a pause until mother nature gave me a sharp reality check. An inevitable tendon injury left me unable to exercise, my world came tumbling down. I started having panic attacks, I dreaded going to work or leaving the house.

It’s an all too familiar story.

I went to my first yoga class in 2015. I will never forget how I felt afterwards, calmer, happier, my mind felt clear. I instinctively knew that the teacher accepted each of us just as we were, as though she saw everything and welcomed it all. It was a relief. I now realise that feeling of acceptance starts within ourselves. Inner and outer compassion goes hand in hand with our happiness, when we accept ourselves for who we are and see ourselves with kindness we begin to exude that feeling to others.

For years I was inconsistent with yoga. I felt amazing after class but would quickly slip back into old patterns. In 2017 I was injured again and unable to run. The anxiety flooded back and with it feelings of frustration at my body for (as I then saw it) failing me. I now look back at that knee injury and feel such gratitude. It was the catalyst for lasting change which has saved my mental health.

I began attending yoga classes regularly to help my knee and I started to practice yoga daily at home, 10-20 mins a day of combined movement, breathing and meditation.

The shift was slow but I began to realise that my relationship with myself and the wider world was changing. I was developing an ability to observe myself and life more objectively. I no longer felt at the whim of my catastrophising thoughts. I noticed negative self-talk and was able to replace it with compassion. Quite simply I was happier!

Yoga has brought me home to my body and my mind, I notice when anxiety is looming and I have the tools to help myself cope. I still love to lift weights and run, but now I recognise the need for balance. Variety is key, I push myself when it feels good but then I come to my mat, I ask myself how I am, what I need. I listen and I act.

It is worth remembering that life is not linear, it is not a constant journey to “the top” whatever that is?! Just like the rhythms of nature there will be times of plenty and lack in our lives, when everything feels hopeful and happy and then quite the opposite, this is normal, quite contrary to what social media may have us believe. Yoga teaches us to find joy in the everyday details of life and to trust that if we are consistent, our yoga practice will be our constant companion to guide us through the highs, lows and everything in between.

My story is not unique, there are many just like it and I hope there will be many more. It is this hope that lead me to train as a yoga teacher, I have seen people arrive to class looking harassed and leave revived. A little goes a long way and I encourage people to incorporate yoga realistically into their lives to make lasting change.

Yoga changes lives and it could change yours too!

If you are curious to learn more I implore you to keep searching until you find a teacher that inspires that same feeling within you, there are lots of different styles of yoga and each teacher brings their own unique personality. It can take time to find a teacher who resonates with you but I promise they are out there, perhaps it is even me!

You can follow me on instagram @mindful._.movement._.yoga and get in touch (I love to chat!) at www.mmyoga.co.uk

Good luck my lovelies!
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