"With your physiology, I'd find myself a new hobby."
My physiotherapist's words about five years ago, having shown her yet another ashtanga yoga related injury. Seemed like my hyper mobile joints couldn't handle all the pressure and things snapped, ripped and twisted too far.
I'd started my yoga studies at the age of 15 from library books. Naturally flexible, I loved trying different postures, and with an over-active mind and a scary imagination I was exploring meditation from early age.
After unwillingly quitting ashtanga at the age of 26 I started feeling off about yoga in general, as some sort of a counter reaction. People doing it were pretentious hippies, people traveling for it were one brainless religious movement, images promoting it looked lame and I found no edge to it what so ever. Yogis seemed boring, unauthentic and everyone was wearing om-necklaces and matching tattoos (like myself). So I got into martial arts. Snapping and tearing myself, and loving it.
At the age of 30, after returning home from years of traveling, I started seeing signs of depression in myself. The feeling was unfortunately familiar. At 19 I went through a proper depression and the only thing that made me feel good (or something) was the newly found devotion to ashtanga yoga, and the overall grayness had been gone since.
The past four years I'd tried different meditation and yoga styles while traveling, never giving up my solid thick yoga mat. So, while struggling to find joy or meaning in my everyday life back home *, I had an idea.
(* everyone who's had to deal with depression knows what it is. Everyone else knows at least someone who's suffered from it, that's why it's not getting more attention here)
I'd given some yoga classes unofficially and by the feedback didn't suck at it. I couldn't imagine myself with a teacher identity but I loved yoga, was aware of it's healing potential and enjoyed standing in front of people and helping them out. Plus I'd always dreamed of a full-on yoga month somewhere far and exotic. Playing with the thought turned into action in a heartbeat when I found a teacher training course in Kathmandu, Nepal. The best money ever used.
Needless to say the experience changed how I felt mentally and physically.
This is what 200 hours of studying practical yoga, pranayama, meditation, yoga history, theory and philosophy in 22 days were about to change:
1. Senses open up wide
It's both blissful and extremely unpleasant to smell everything. Everyone who quit smoking knows that. Yoga definitely affects the senses, making colours more saturated and shapes sharp. The noises become louder, some unbearable, but the upside is that you can really taste the food. And in Nepal it's freakin' delicious.
2. Feelings get stronger
The thing I struggled with most during depression was the lack of strong emotions. So one day, after a class, I felt like listening to loud music through headphones, an urge I didn't even remember having, and couldn't stop crying. Everything felt strong and I felt alive. Hyperballad was Hyperballad again and it brought back a rush of feelings carried by memories from the past, from ecstasy to heartache and falling in love with life again.
3. Finding natural joy and occasional euphoria
I got re-united with my optimistic and enthusiastic self, the one that for a while I'd only seen glimpses of. Feel-good was now a norm, not an exception, and euphoria was more than a song title.
4. Anti-age, or pro-age, how you wanna have it
Oh the joy when I could do a bridge from standing and backward bending. The last time I did that was when I was in my early twenties. I had no idea I could go back to that. God that made me sound old (but flexible). Plus the pure joy took years off my face.
The nice thing about yoga is that even if you're not 'naturally flexible', the results and development tend to show fast, which is hugely rewarding.
5. Unintended mindfulness
Things. Got. Slower. In a good way. So much so that I was worried of the silence in my head and the sudden ability to stay focused in the present.
6. By'bye backache and sciatica
Since I started the full-time laptop work after traveling, I'd been suffering from sciatica and locked hips that also meant super tight back muscles, pain and the ability to sit on couch only in one position. It made me feel like crap (a very old one). With six hours of therapeutic hatha yoga training a day, the symptoms were gone in four days and didn't come back since. FYI.
7. The flow is back
The drive that gets you places and makes things happen with what seems like zero effort can feel like a flowing sensation in the soul. It can also be entirely gone. When you have a lust for life you know what you want and more importantly, you know who you are. In the flow things like 'where you have been' and 'how long it took to get here' lose their significance.
8. Ability to see potential in mundane
When your every-day life doesn't seem like sloshing in a muddy pond anymore, but floating in a water park (next to someone's poop).
9. Pass out at 9 pm, wake up at 6 am (FULL OF ENERGY!)
I always wanted to be a night person, and live in the same rhythm as my artist friends who all seem to be in love with the moon, drawing insane energy from it. Yoga helped me give it up. I was always a morning person, the first one to yawn at 8 pm and also the one who fills up with hopes and light at dawn.
10. Body's immediate feedback with what I'm feeding it
Yes. I was already eating pretty decently, vegan and all, but now it's easier to agree with my body on what's for breakfast.
11. Bursting with ideas
The whole month doing yoga and filling the days with only yoga-related issues and studying, it felt like I had literally nothing in my head. But after the month it took me two days to start bursting with fresh ideas. So much so that I had to tone down my urges to negotiate big loans from the bank.
Struggling with a depressed head often tends to distort the image in the mirror. I'm generally a person with healthy confidence, one who enjoys talking to strangers and telling about herself if asked. In the beginning of my trip I could barely look people in the eye, speak English without stuttering or tell them about my personal life without the fear of judgement. That's when I realized how far and bad things had gone. Somewhere within those 22 days I was back. Every day I came closer to being me again, spoke a little louder, danced a little prouder and stood a little bit more straight. The difference after coming back home was huge. I could now see what my distorted self image had caused in my relationships and was able to start fixing it.
13. No more insomnia
I tend to have lots of nightmares and action-packed dreams in general, that's why I'd taken valerian root extract for quite some time to calm down my mind. Due to work stress I hadn't slept properly in a while, constantly waking up to hear my buzzing mind go through useless things over and over. The voice in my head sounded almost panic-like, very loud and accusing.
Needless to say I now sleep like a freaking baby. The kind that sleeps.
14. Stress and anxiety gone
If you have fear of flying, you know what even the gentlest turbulence does to your whole system. Both physical and mental reactions go wild. With all the meditation that comes along the yoga practice, these panic reactions mild down massively. You know it's gonna be alright and your body knows it too. And if the plane crashes, isn't it nice not to spend your last seconds not shitting yourself?
15. A little alcohol equals to a lot of it
I still love wine and beer. But less is more when it comes to wearing make-up on a wrinkly face or on a yogi's night out.
16. Honesty and attention to one's own needs
After coming home I noticed I couldn't twist the truth and being honest didn't hurt. Not that I lie, but I have a tendency to not say things if I feel like there's a chance of hurting someone. Being honest with myself felt even better. It's like a new tool you get that you know how to use right away and makes your life hell-of-a-lot easier.
17. Strength in what I though was weak
In 22 days of yoga my weak wrist (badly sprained years ago) was healed and then slowly became strong enough to carry my side-blanks. This also works as a metaphor.
18. Flashes from the past
Now this is a funny thing! After so much yoga (and releasing piles of blocks from my system I bet) I started having flashes from my childhood and young adulthood. Not only visions but also familiar smells triggering memories and suddenly recalling forgotten moments. Most of the memories were everyday-like occasions, but it was still like opening a treasure-box.
19. Need for clearing out stuff
I have a tendency to clean like a maniac and get rid of items when I can't control my life or emotions. But yoga gives you very good indication on what you really need and what's merely a burden, and as a plus it gives you the courage to give it up.
20. Laughter's back.
I had the privilege of spending a month with six funny, bright and loving human beings that were my class-mates. During the yoga teacher training we supported each other in asanas and in life, and laughed when it was most needed and when it was most inappropriate. And you know, not even yoga works as fast as laughter does.