Yoga & Mental Health

by: Jackie Roberts

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First off I feel a little self indulgent writing this! Especially since self study (or as we call it in yoga swadhyay) is all about being more present in the moment letting go of past and future dialogue to be in the here and now! But I feel like I have come or am rather coming through something that is worth expressing or sharing. Maybe by telling the story of me I can help another. Maybe I’ll even help my self!

I am an addict! What I am an addict of really has no consequence other than to color the story line which of course I will divulge, but it is important to know that we addicts are all pre-disposed to the same flaw. We can’t let go! We hold on to whatever whomever we are experiencing. We want more and we fear when the more runs out. This clinging and fear  is a lack of self love. The “I’m ok right now in this moment” voice of self soothing that my kin all lack.  Who knows when we loose it. There are theories on personality archetypes or experiences as in nature vs. nurture but no one really knows. I choose food.  I was 88 lbs when I got help over 15 years ago. And it has been an extremely messy up and down battle. Finally I float somewhere in the middle. Knowing my tendencies and making choices to not deprive nor abuse anything. Now whether it’s drugs, alcohol, sex, gambling, pills, self mutilation, or even love it really all falls under the same umbrella of two inner dialogues. I am not enough or I don’t deserve to take up space.

I had an eating disorder for more time than I desire to admit. Today the choice to be healthy is not dependent on my pants size but rather conscious decisions I will myself to make that now make up a healthy ego. I have found a purpose or my dharma in life we call our purusha(truth). My truth is I  a teacher. I’m not perfect. And I can teach that that’s ok. In fact my perceived imperfections have served my students and give me a connection and approachability.

The choice to eat a healthy balanced diet that involves foods that are good for my constitution and avoid emotional triggers. An exercise routine that is void of excess and leans towards an intuition of exactly what I need in the moment. Yoga taught me to find my inner voice and always trust it. I start each day with a simple five minute mediation to check in.

The most enjoyable question I get from fellow gym goers as I enter my health club is “what are you working on today.” My answer always remains the same. “I don’t know… Whatever my body needs.”

This simple philosophy is how I live and do everything in my life. Through trial and immense error I have come to realize that how you do one thing is how you do everything. Addiction as much as recovery is about changing the negative habits. These habits include a recording we have in our heads that we don’t deserve to take up space. For women we are taught to negate this voice. It’s still shocking to me when I hear a woman I perceive as strong and capable say “what should I do.” “Well,” I ask… “What do you need.” This is where yoga not asana(this mere physical practice or western yoga) comes into play.

There is nothing more difficult in life than the not knowing. We are ruled so heavily by our minds and the thirst for knowledge how do we let go? You can train endless hours for a marathon to prepare the physical bodies stamina and endurance, you can study countless hours for an exam, and you can pre heat an oven for a perfect cheesecake, but how do you begin a quest for equanimity of the heart? We begin to know that it takes a life time of trial and error to discover…we know nothing at all.  And when it comes to the human condition; fear, love, grief, regret, joy, lust, and longing we all have a metaphorical blindfold on. So why ask how? How can we just be. Meditation is said to help accept the unanswered questions and allows a beingness, but until that moment when the bomb of uncertainty goes off how do we surrender?

I find myself still going to that place of gripping tight instead of letting go. I am knew to meditation and yoga. And by new I mean about 10 years. I am certain it will take one or two lifetimes for me to fully embrace it and even begin to understand being in the moment.  I know it has made a significant difference on who I am both inside and out. That my internal temperature runs cooler now that I sit and just breathe into the nothingness  of the present moment.  I practice non attachment but still I feel detaching completely out of the sights.

Love for me is the most challenging of all attachments. It is the reason I have choose a sobriety so to speak from relationships since my last ended in divorce. I have limited my physical encounters as well and made loving intimate  friendships more my focus. But as I venture back out there I realize I am a hopeless romantic. I have tried many a times to maintain a practice of letting go in my relationships but in the end maintaining detachment when it is appropriate to let go is like a weapon of mass destruction.  It blows to bits any semblance of balance or inner harmony. I begin to fight and struggle to hold on to something that was never in my possession.

So I guess the question is…how do we let go of expectation and allow beginnings and endings to simply flow through our being. This is advanced yoga.   We can not control life or circumstance but merely remain neutral to its out come. Having gratitude for the mere sake of gratitude itself. Because it feels good. Yoga is a practice.  And we, no matter how we feel must practice anyway

Yoga is not designer 120 dollar pants on a 90 dollar mat in the trendiest studio with the hipist teacher with quasi famous patrons while drinking a green juice…yoga is just not that fancy or glamorous when it’s real…

It is the painstaking intimate dedicated study of the mind, the body, and their relationship to each other which affects the spirit. It is the study of the space inside or the lack there of metaphorically speaking and literally.

It is the stillness and movement of breathe and the pause in between. It is a deep connectedness to everything you are and what you observe. It is beyond the physical or external yet completely tied to the flesh, the skin, the bones, organs, and connective tissue.  It is our relationship to everything and everyone in our life.  It is our addictions, aversions, and how we define ourselves through those habits.  Yoga is acceptance. Yoga is this moment. Yoga is being present with what is. It is the frequency and the music of your heart beat. Everything that occupies matter vibrates at its own unique beat. Yoga is the harmony and symphony of that beat.  This is my story. My song, This is my yoga. Yoga is now…atta yoga anusasanam.

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@jonescrow photography

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