Going Through the Motions









Recently I’ve been down in a dark hole. I struggle with depression on and off, but this was the lowest I’ve been in recent memory. “I know that I have wonderful people in my life and so many things to be grateful for and I am, so what’s my problem”, I will ask myself. Then I feel worse because I have no excuse to be so down in the dumps.

For me, being bummed out is a series of contradictions. I don’t want to go to sleep at night, yet don’t want to get out of bed in the morning. I don’t want to do anything, but don’t want to not do anything because that will give me yet another reason to feel bad about myself. I want someone to reassure me that everything is okay, but I’m convinced that it isn’t. Being around people is the last thing I feel like doing, yet it’s when I’m with people that often I feel slightly better, even if it’s temporary.

The worst part is feeling like I’m just going through the motions of my life. There’s still work, responsibilities, and even basic behaviors like taking a shower and emptying the dishwasher. Yet I feel like I’m doing it all with a big cloud of sludge surrounding me.

This brings up another contradiction. I don’t want to be fake. It doesn’t seem very yogic. I don’t like putting on positive, cheery front, if that’s not being true to where I’m at. On the other hand, I still have to hold it together. If I’m leading a volunteer group or teaching a class, I need to be holding a positive space for people. So is it better to act upbeat even if that’s the polar opposite of how I feel?

A wise person pointed out to me, “What if you just were to be where you are? What if you do just go through the motions and accept that that’s where you are right now?” For some reason, this took some pressure off. I still show up. I don’t have to be the life of the party, but I do have to put myself out there and do the best job I can. If I feel like I’m just slogging through it, that’s how it is right now. Going through the motions is a way of keeping hope. Even if I don’t believe things will get better, if I keep doing it anyway, eventually I can begin embodying the effort I’m putting forth.

The fog has started to lift. Yesterday I had the chance to do a long yoga practice. Midway through I found myself giving out a big sigh as a huge block of sadness fell away. I kept going through the motions of my practice, but for the first time in awhile, felt present in my body and okay with myself.




Tip Tuesday: 3 Poses for Depression

Tip Tuesday is a weekly feature where I offer a few yoga tips that have worked for me in the hopes that they can help you too.

As I’ve shared, yoga has some terrific poses to counteract anxiety, but it can also help when you are experiencing the flip side of the anxiety coin: depression. Here’s 3 poses for when you’re feeling the blahs:

1) Sun Salutations: Ana Forrest calls sun salutes, “Yoga Prozac.” Sometimes you just need to move your body with the breath to move energy to lift you out of the hole. For added uplift, put on some fun, upbeat music as you flow.

There are a number of variations on sun salutations. Any version you like will work or you can follow the version in this video. The most important part is moving with your breath through each pose in the series.


Image credit: Yoga Journal

2) Elbow to Knee: Abs are a fantastic way to access your power and your juice for life that gets buried in depression.

To get there:

1) Lie on back with bent knees up, feet slightly lower than height of knees, toes active, hands clasped behind head
2) Inhale into lower back, hold the breath and curl tailbone up
3) Exhale and reach both elbows towards left thigh, reach through straight right leg, pull belly down.

Once you’re there:

1) Relax neck into the hands
2) Keep knee over the hip, not rocking forward
3) Stay up and off of shoulder blades

Image credit: Forrest Yoga

3) Dolphin: Go upside down! Going upside down quite literally turns everything upside down. The physical shift naturally shifts your perspective and bring you some uplift (er, upside down lift?) If you have a practice of handstand, this is another outstanding pose for depression (just make sure you do a pose like dolphin or another shoulder-opener before popping up to handstand).

To get there:

1) Bring hands to upper arm to measure elbow distance. Align second finger with elbow or clasp hands out in front of you

2) Wrap shoulder blades in towards armpits, flexing chest muscles

3) Exhale, curl toes and lift hips up into dolphin

While you’re there:

1) Lift up and out of shoulders

2) Reach up through hips and reach heels down towards mat to fire up legs

3) Keep neck relaxed

What poses are helpful to you when you’re feeling low?

When you’re in a hole, don’t mole

Image credit: Alexa Opal Hamilton

Ever get in that place?

Yeah, I have been on the express bus to cranky-town lately. My work is going through a number of transitions with the summer coming and my kids classes coming to an end with the end of school year. I am exploring options for doing some non-yoga work in addition to teaching. Things are up in the air. I don’t know how it is all going to turn out.

This makes me cranky. Actually, it brings up a lot of issues of uncertainty, insecurity, and doubt.  Not to mention that mental racket that tells me I should have it figured out already and what’s wrong with me that I don’t. Being already irritated with myself, I get increasingly nit-picky about everything I do and frustrated by situations beyond my illusive control. Ironically enough, it gets harder and harder to take steps that would make me feel better (such as practicing yoga, hanging out with other people, getting outside, etc.) It occurs to me as I surf Facebook, finding further evidence to support how much more exciting and accomplished everyone else is than me, that this might not be the most uplifting or worthwhile activity.

The difference is I am realizing when I get into this hole and most importantly, when I start to mole deeper down into it. I dragged myself kicking and screaming to my yoga mat (ok, maybe just mentally sticking my lower lip out). My irritation continued on the mat. “I don’t wanna do this yoga sequence. I don’t wanna hold the pose any longer.” Still I kept slogging through pouting all the while.

But something my instructor said stuck with me. He had us become aware of the ways in whichwe self-deprecate and lack compassion for ourselves and asked if we could be be open to the possibility that we can change how we feel. Not that we have to change or want to or even believe we could feel differently. Just being open to the idea that we might be able to make this mental shift.

I felt as if the negative harness cutting into my skin had suddenly slackened. Here on my yoga mat I was given permission. Feeling great was not a requirement for entry, nor was it mandatory I feel great at any point in the process. The only thing asked of me was a willingness to be open.

Back when I was in the middle of my teacher training, I remember having one day where I was completely exhausted and frustrated. I wanted to extend a middle finger to my teacher and the assistants. The thought of more relentless feedback or another round of elbow to knee pose was unbearable. At the end of the day, one of my fellow trainees asked me how I was doing. I answered honestly about it being a rough day. She responded, “Some days the success is just getting through the day.”

Some days are like that. Success is sometimes just showing up and getting through. Although I might still be in the hole, not really sure how or when I will get out, I can be open to the possibility of finding a way to climb out.



At Peace

I just got some really terrible and sad news last night. The best friend of my youngest sister was found dead in a river up in Oregon. She was just 26. They’d been best friends since early elementary school and our family knew her well as she was a fixture around our house growing up. I was shocked that this wonderful, happy-go-lucky person that had everything going for her was driven to commit suicide. It shows that you just don’t always know what is going on inside a person. My heart just goes out to my sister’s friend, Carly for the pain she had that led her to that point.

As I talked and cried with my family last night, I remembered when I was in the depths of depression when I was fifteen. I just felt like I was in a dark hole where no one could pull me out and I couldn’t see anything positive beyond it. I thought about suicide a lot and even had a plan for how I would do it, where I would go so my body wouldn’t be found by anyone until it was too late. Would I have gone through with it? I don’t know, but it struck me how lucky I am to have gotten out of that place and not ever been back there. It could’ve been me in that river of depression. I don’t know how it is that I got lucky enough to pull out of it, but I am so grateful to have made it out of that hole. It makes me heartsick to know how awful Carly must have felt to feel that was the only way out.

I hope that wherever Carly is now that she is out of pain and her spirit is at peace. We miss you, Carly.