I have dabbled with yoga for many years but it’s only since I started my AF journey at the end of 2017 that it’s been in my life more consistently. When I came back from the retreat recently, recognising that I had neglected yoga for a few months I set myself a 40 day challenge to do yoga or meditate every day in an attempt to embed the habit. Ive missed 2 days so far out of 30. Some days it has been really difficult to get myself onto the mat and I’ve literally only been there for 5 minutes. More recently I’ve found myself prioritising it and looking forward to that time.
In his wonderful book, The body holds the score, Bessel van de Kolk talks about how trauma is held in our bodies and nervous systems, and people need more than talking therapy to help with that. It’s like the body’s smoke alarm is set to be triggered at any hint of danger, leading to over reactions, stress and catastrophising all over the place. Their research has confirmed what the yogis already knew; yoga calms it all down; encouraging balance between the parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest) rather than the sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight). It is also said in yoga circles that we hold emotional pain in our hips in particular; a result of those muscles contracting whenever our stress response is triggered. Sitting at desks and in cars for long periods doesn’t help either.
I’ve had tight hips as long as I’ve been aware of such things; particularly on the left. Years of running and riding and not stretching – the folly of youth! Yoga has helped ease it but I often have pain in that area, particularly as I fall asleep. I’ve been doing a lot of hip stretches in my yoga routine these last few weeks. When I wrote my last post about getting in touch with the origins of my depression; I didn’t say that whilst the memories flooded me as I was going to sleep my hip was throbbing intensely – not super painful but intense. I wrote the blog and the next night I dreamt that my mum died. It was now, not the past, and all I did in the dream was cry buckets of tears. Since that night I have not felt depressed in the same heavy, unmotivated way; and my hip is looser and the pain has gone pretty much. I’ve felt extremely grateful to my unconscious that it took care of the weeping so I didn’t have to in the day!
Whilst there are other things that can take some credit for my improved mood; time off work and antidepressants have helped for sure; as does writing this blog; I don’t think they can account for the physical and emotional healing happening in tandem. As I move through the poses I feel stronger, more balanced and more connected to my body. I also feel a mental lightness and a sense of well being. My thoughts can still go to anxious places but not the black despairing holes they were finding before. I can rationalise my thoughts and put them in perspective more easily. Best of all I’ve got energy and I’m enjoying the small things again. Doing the weekly food shop no longer seems a gigantic task and I’m getting through things I need to do without getting stressed about them. It will be a challenge to keep it up when I get back to work later this week but I think my well being will depend on it!