Life is going back to normal, things are getting busier, and our bodies and minds are being stretched and pushed into spaces that are uncomfortable, causing tension and stress and sometimes even pain.
Yoga philosophy has some really interesting things to say on the topic of mental health. It’s so fascinating, and somewhat comforting, to know that 3,000 years ago, our minds were doing pretty much the same things they are today.
And the message is that we have a choice. This discomfort, this unease, this pain IS optional.
So, what is pain?
The basics of yoga, and of other East Asian philosophies, is that pain is inevitable.
Yoga can’t cure the things that cause pain, but it can help you to manage them.
And all of this is based on the belief that suffering is a choice.
According to yoga, pain comes in three forms.
Firstly, the physical and mental pain we experience from having a physical body
Secondly, when our physical bodies come into contact with the external world we may experience pain - think other people, animals, plants, bacteria and viruses (we’re all very familiar with this one right now!)
Thirdly, is the pain we experience that is associated with the totally unpredictable elements of life such as natural disasters and other things relating to geography and the planet itself.
Yoga says that how much you suffer is your conscious decision.
What can these issues look like on you?
Yoga suggests that when we experience pain and choose to suffer, it can manifest in a series of ways that starts a chain reaction and if not dealt with can spin out of control. Symptoms can show up at first as a lack of discipline and can sometimes end up with depression and other serious mental health issues.
1. Lack of discipline
We may start to see symptoms of not feeling at our best begin to show up in our day to day routines. How able are you to stay committed to your goals? For example, consider your daily routine, habits, food and relationships. When these areas are off balance, it’s hard to remain grounded or centred.
2. Poor body awareness
Once our day to day routines start to get out of whack, it can have a bit of a knock on effect and start to show up in the way we are treating our bodies. If you experience mental fatigue, low concentration levels and possibly even hormonal imbalances it’s likely that stress plays a role in your life and these things can be directly linked to poor communication between the brain and the body. It’s not about suppressing your desires, but noticing how what you eat plays a role on how you feel.
3. Addictions and anger
Once we stop paying attention to what we eat and focusing on how taking care of our bodies actually makes us feel, we really start to notice our mood and emotions are hard to manage. These elements can be felt in your relationships with the outside world, particularly through work, self-criticism and social media for example. Anger is not always expressed externally, but can be bottled up and then finds its way out in different forms.
4. Fear, anxiety, low self-esteem, depression
It's quite common to feel this way and not really know how we got here, but yoga says that feelings of anxiety, depression and other significant mental health issues are a culmination of all 3 categories above. Often feeling dullness or lethargy in the body and mind, a lack of confidence and a lack of gratitude and compassion for yourself and others around you.
So, where do we start?
The great news is that Yoga believes there is a really simple way to get started. Asana, movement, simple yoga poses. Even just 20-30 minutes a day and you will begin to feel change.
That which we persist in doing becomes easier. It’s not that the tasks become easier, but our ability to perform them improves.
Things in life that cause stress do not stop, but our ability to deal with them will improve.
It’s when we don’t understand or accept our stress, or think it should not exist, we are unable to access the tools to manage it and this can manifest itself in ways that will never serve us.
Give yourself 3 days
For the next three days, mark off 20 minutes in your day, and follow along with this simple yoga routine.
Do it without expectation, and without really overthinking it at all.
Once you add conscious movement into your routine, you'll start to notice changes in your self-discipline, this will in turn have positive affects on your body awareness, which will lessen your addictions and anger and ultimately lead to improved self-esteem, confidence and all round happiness.
Notice how you feel on day 3, and if you’re starting to notice changes in your body and mind, continue.
Give yourself permission to put you first.
The following 7 poses are simple and classical hatha yoga postures that when practiced together can have a profound effect on the chemicals in your body and lead to a calming effect on the brain and the nervous system. Follow along with the short video below for a few days and then when and if you feel the confidence to practice alone, then please go ahead.
Standing prayer pose
Palm tree pose
Easy seated pose
Seated forward fold
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Carrie is a co-founder of The Frog Project, yoga teacher, yoga teacher trainer and full time stay at home mum to two smalls. When she's not playing with the kids or practicing yoga, you'll likely find her in the middle of her veg patch, trowel in hand and covered in mud. She loves the outdoors, and would camp every night given the chance. She and her partner in crime, Martin, set up The Frog Project with the aim of bringing classical yoga to all, and deliver live online classes with a group of dedicated teachers, to students of all experiences, ages, shapes, sizes, jobs, lives, you name it, from all around the world. Join them now and get 15 days of free unlimited classes. It's just yoga.