I think I am posting this mostly to vent, but any advice on any related subject (reading matter, physical cleansing or diet, related sites) would also be deeply appreciated.
I am a former yoga teacher working to return to a consistant practice after three years of debilitating depression. Although I have a supportive environment in which to practice, I find myself absolutely terrified of my return. I found such light and joy in my practice before--almost for the first time in my life, I felt a lasting freedom from the despair that has plagued me since childhood. Yet with the onset of a breakdown several years ago, I lost my will to do virtually everything. As my recovery from depression has progressed, I have returned many time to my practice, but I continually abandon my efforts--sometimes after a class or two, sometimes after six weeks or a few months. Instinctually, I return to yoga again, yet I am absolutely petrified. In addition to my loss of physical facility with the postures, I have gained a drastic amount of weight (seventy pounds). Astanga and vinyasa yoga were the practices that most motivated and inspired me, and my weight gain has rendered this type of vigorous practice extremely difficult, which I find frustrating. However, after exploration of several options, I have decided to return to vinyasa practice and to modify where necessary. I continue to find that a vigorous practice most helps to influence my mental state, though I plan to supplement this practice with Iyengar classes, which I love.
The anxiety elements of my depression constantly urge me to cloister myself in my house, to postpone practice for another day. I struggle with this. And though I have formerly had an extremely rewarding home practice, I find that now I crave a teacher's guidance even more than the physical and emotional strength I know I will find in my practice. I know that a group class will be the best answer, but sometimes I feel like a stubborn mule pulling back on a lead, refusing to move forward. In the moments before I know I must leave for class, I find myself throwing out every possible excuse in order to not go. I also find myself struggling with the idea of anonymity. I seek it desperately, as it helps to mitigate the anxiety I feel at being away from home. While I seek the intimacy of group practice, I am also afriad of getting too close to a teacher, to disappointing him or her with my lack of conviction or progress. I feel irrationally angry at the thought that a teacher might notice I was not in class.
But my most irrational anger is directed both towards myself and towards the practice of yoga as a whole. I feel betrayed and hurt that my practice was not "enough" to stave off my depression. I remember so well a conversation I had with my mother after a year of dedicated daily practice. I told her I finally felt liberated, as if I had found the key to peace and joy after all this time. I felt I had found my true self, my true path. Of course, I still believe this to be true. Yet I am furious at my disease, and furious that my dedication and my conviction toward my practice couldn't keep it at bay. When I remember the glow and light I felt during my teacher training, I want to cry for all I seem to have lost. Intellectually, I know that I have not lost it, that the light is still within me, but it is a constant battle for me to believe in it. For now, I endeavor to put one foot in front of the next. This afternoon I will take my first class in six months.
I too have had depression, but I mixed alcohol and cocaine to self treat-ohhh and what a special combination that was....
I do not suffer from depression now, and I've come to realize it served my purpose...and my loving acceptance (just recently) of that period has aided in my moving on and being happy, healthy, and holy (I'm of the Kundalini yogic variety)
I am reading a book by Thomas Moore, you've probably seen some of his work, this one is entitled "Care and feeding of the Soul" ---Oh my God I wish I had read this earlier when I was processing the "stuff" that triggered the fear and then the depression.
It helped me to better understand what psyhic work the depression affords us and reduced the shame and lostness the depression felt like.
I would send you my copy, so strongly do I believe that it will clarify, and so much do I wish someone had done this for me-But my copy is a borrowed copy.
Thomas Moore is the widely acclaimed author of the New York Times bestsellers Care of the Soul; Soul Mates; and The Re-enchantment of Everyday Life. He has practiced psychotherapy for over 17 years and has published many articles in the fields of archetypal and Jungian psychology, mythology, and the arts. He has also written The Planets Within; Rituals of the Imagination; and Dark Eros.
586 Nashua Street
Milford, NH 03055
You said: "As my recovery from depression has progressed, I have returned many time to my practice, but I continually abandon my efforts--sometimes after a class or two, sometimes after six weeks or a few months. Instinctually, I return to yoga again, yet I am absolutely petrified. In addition to my loss of physical facility with the postures, I have gained a drastic amount of weight (seventy pounds)."
If you have been away from the practice for several years and have gained weight, then of course it is going to be more difficult. That is only a practical, mechanical matter of getting the body back into shape and back into the habit of doing the yoga practices. It will take time, don't expect instant results. Don't worry about doing the "full" practice as others in the class may be able to do. Do what you can do and don't compare what you can do with what others can do. If you are persistent and patient, then your body will adjust over time and you will find yourself being able to do more and more. There is no such thing as "I can't", there is only "I can... even if only a little bit... and as time goes by, given enough effort, I will be able to even better." If it's something you really want to do, then do it, and don't give up... but don't be unrealistic in your immediate expectations, and don't push yourself too hard. A slow but steady advancement is much more beneficial than a rapid, unstable advancement that is often followed by a hard crash or "fallout"...
You said: "I feel betrayed and hurt that my practice was not "enough" to stave off my depression."
There is absolutely no reason to feel "betrayed". Yoga itself is NOT enough to stave off such a depression. When strong karma is ready to unfold... or to put it another way... when karmic seeds are ready to sprout... there is very little that can be done to fully prevent that unfoldment. There is much that can be done to mitigate the effects, but very little can be done to fully prevent it. Yoga is one tool, or aid, that can be used to mitigate the effects of karma. But it is no "super-cure" that will fully prevent depression or other negative karmic tendencies. Other such "tools" are meditation, prayer/worship, service to others, contemplation, proper diet, study of spiritual texts/scripture, avoidance of "bad company" who will only drag you down into negative states of mind, and others that I'm surely forgetting to mention.
Your depression was an unfoldment of karma, possibly from a strong habitual depression from a past life, or due to poor "choices" or circumstances in this life (such as diet, living conditions, the company you choose to keep, low self esteem due to comparison to others or unrealistic expectations of yourself, and many other possibilities). It is something that must be accepted, and worked through. It sounds like you are coming out of "the worst of it", but I'm sure you are still feeling many negative after-effects. The important thing is to not let those effects bring you down. Accept the fact that they are there, but don't give in to them. Don't let them control you. Pick yourself up and push on, no matter how many times you fall. It requires effort and willpower to lift yourself up from muddy places, but if you keep trying, you will make it out for sure.
I have read that "No amount of spiritual effort goes unrewarded", and I have seen it to be true. No matter how miniscule or seemingly insignificant your progress is, and no matter how many times you fall, whatever effort you make is NOT lost. You may not notice it when looking into the immediate past or present. You may not feel that you are making any progress at all. It may take 5, 10, 15 years until you can look back and actually notice any significant progress. But I assure you it's there.
So don't let "failures" and negative feelings bring you down. Those negativities are just dirt and grime that need to be cleaned off. They are not a part of you... don't worry so much about them. If you focus on the negative, "dirty" things, then that will become all that you are able to see. Focus on the positive things that you enjoy, and don't pay much attention to the negatives, no matter how strong they may be.
There is probably a lot more that I could say but my thoughts are starting to wander, so this is all for now. :)
Good luck, and don't take things so seriously... life isn't as serious as people tend to think. :)
All you say is true, but have compassion my friend-when depression sets in, no amount of commonsense logic makes any difference only HEART.
Inother words I'll bet she already knows all you said -especially if she taught yoga, the point is she feels lost -it isn't the lack of agility, or just the weight, it is the feeling of being depressed-literally the energetic system has contracted.
Tenderness and understanding of the condition and the hurt, not instructions in picking oneself up...
I'd guess you've never experienced depression-it's not about logic-unfortunately
If it were only so manageable!
Sorry but there was something mechanical sounding I intuited-and the wandering mind comment...doesn't sound very connected to the condition or feelings.
There was nothing mechanical about it, and I assure you my words come from a very deep understanding.
I don't know what kind of "tenderness & compassion" you hope to see expressed over a text-only medium such as this. People generally (incorrectly) equate "words of pity" with "words of compassion"... I could say "I totally understand how you feel, and I feel so sorry for you, and I hope things get better"... But I don't feel sorry for her... why? Because I know she'll come out of it... there is absolutely nothing to worry about. We all experience negativities, and we all have to work through them. I'm only interested in helping people work through those things. If I had no compassion or understanding, then I wouldn't have bothered posting in the first place.
If someone is depressed, you can sit there and tell them how you understand their condition and their "pain", but what good does it do? It gives them a small sense of "at least somebody understands", but it does nothing to help lift them up out of it. You said "Tenderness and understanding of the condition and the hurt, not instructions in picking oneself up...", but that sounds somewhat absurd... when someone is in such a state of mind, "instructions" (to use a somewhat... mechanical... term) on lifting oneself up is EXACTLY what they need. Or at the very least, it's the best that one can give over a non-intimate medium such as this.
She came here searching for help and upliftment. We can all sit around and give words of understanding and compassion, but what good does it do if nobody gives any advice to actually help her with her situation?
As for the "wandering mind" comment that I made... When I read posts like that of woodlawn's, I'm often flooded with many thoughts, explanations, or understandings that I want to express to the person. It's not uncommon for me to spend an hour or more on a response, because while writing I stop very frequently to contemplate and reflect on what it is I'm writing, what I want to write, and to "collect" and keep track of my thoughts. Over such a span of time, it is sometimes hard to maintain focus and stay on the same train of thought while at the same time writing or thinking about "sub-topics" that may be relevent to the discussion. After a while the mind begins to lose focus, and that's when I decide it's best to stop. I didn't mean to imply that the things I've written were from a wandering or uncollected mind... that gives the impression that my entire post was only "half-assed" and had no real "heart" or understanding to it, which is not the case.