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You Could Use a Little Yoga: Therapeutic Flow

Keeping up a steady practice of any activity, no matter how much you enjoy it, can be difficult. Case in point: a commitment to twice-weekly yoga sessions. I think by now it’s obvious how much I love yoga. But man, sometimes I just don’t feel like actually doing it. That’s been especially true over the past week.

Woman doing yoga in a seated position at sunset.To be honest, I’ve been a little bit down in the dumps lately. I don’t know why. I have a natural tendency toward depression, and sometimes there doesn’t even have to be a trigger in order for me to completely fall apart. And as anyone who has had to tussle with depression knows, once you fall apart it can be hard to put the pieces back together. To facilitate the process, I decided that I’d try to get help from a “therapeutic” yoga class. Yoga can help with a variety of ailments, both physical and emotional, so I thought there was a fairly good chance that I’d be doing myself a favor by getting down on the mat.

I tried a class I hadn’t tried before, based on its description. This 80-minute Therapeutic Flow class (available on YogaVibes) was to start with hamstring and hip releases, followed by some stabilizing exercises, and shoulder openers. Generally, poses that either release or open parts of the body (particularly the chest and hips) are good for emotional release, so I thought this practice had the potential to lighten my proverbial load.

I made it through 50 minutes before turning it off. I can’t pinpoint the exact reason I gave up on it–the practice itself was fine. But for my depressed state, it presented a challenge that I didn’t want to push myself to overcome. It wasn’t that the poses were hard, it was just that they moved slowly, and the meditative pace was a bit too much for me. Having been stuck in my head for the past couple days, the last thing I needed was to spend more time there.

Even though I turned the video off, it did help to get up and do something. Focusing on making it through a few yoga poses put me in a position where I had to think of something other than the fact that I’m unhappy, why I’m unhappy, what I should be doing about it, and things of that nature. It also taught me a lesson when it comes to yoga for depression–there’s much more to it than just the poses. Hip openers may be great for an emotional release, but they aren’t going to have their full benefit if you’re spending the whole time wondering when the practice will end (which is essentially what I found myself doing).

Next time I find myself in a position where I might want to address emotional needs with a physical activity like yoga, I realize I’m going to have to put more thought into what it is I want. Something fast? Slow? Intense? Relaxing? There’s clearly no blanket cure for depression when it comes to traditional approaches such as therapy and medication, and I’m just beginning to realize that similarly, a yoga session that works for one person won’t necessarily work for another.

Is there any sort of physical practice that helps you through difficult emotional times, yoga or otherwise?

By Emilie

Runner, yogini, knitter, Manhattanite in spite of myself. Also blogging at http://www.icametorun.com.

One reply on “You Could Use a Little Yoga: Therapeutic Flow”

I have actually done some yoga a couple times this week. Now that school is back in I need the time where my head is just quiet, and I just breathe and move through the motions. A lot of time I find myself just doing sun salutations over and over because I don’t have to think about what I’m doing next. I think those moments are really helpful for stress and to snap out of whatever funk I’ve been in.

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