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Yoga is an Antidepressant

By Amanda Mack

Picture of Baddha Konasana restorative yoga pose at The Yoga Collective in Anchorage, Ak.

In the depths of winter in Alaska, maintaining a positive mood can feel like a full time job at times. Making time for self care is so essential. When we put it off for too long, the slow creep of a depressed mood settles in and takes hold. At times, it can feel good to do less, sleep more and give in to being blue. It’s dark out after all and it’s just so much easier than being good. We might think, “Who’s it going to hurt if I just take a day off, maybe two or three, of my regular routine?” This is a slippery slope. It’s not only unhealthy for us as individuals, it is unhealthy for our families and our extended spheres of influence.

And the good news? Even ten minutes of meditation or yoga or both can lift one’s spirits. I know this to be true yet I don’t always do it. However, this week I recommitted again to meditating for ten minutes each morning. My blue mood was beginning to feel the norm and everyone’s mood in my house was low and irritable. To ensure it would happen, I took a risk and recruited my husband to meditate with me even before our morning ritual of coffee and tea, a real shake up to our morning routine. He said yes and after two weeks, my risk paid off! My husband has been more consistent than me and my mood is definitely clearer and brighter than before.

A home yoga practice just amplifies the effect. In preparation for my classes this week, I took time to get on my mat and explore sequences for my two yoga classes (Wednesday noon and Friday at 9:30 a.m.). Adding a physical practice focusing on backbending/heart openers to my 10 minute meditation gave me a lift in spirits that carried me through my day with ease. I was happy to see my kids at the end of the school day. I was lighthearted with my husband. Conversation was easy, not the slog it can sometimes be this time of year.

Why do we resist the daily commitment to self care when we know how good it is for us? When I resist, I feel a schoolgirl defiance that leaves me feeling disappointed in myself. Over time, that can feed into the narrative of being a bad person, a bad mother, being unworthy, etc. Just ten minutes a day can completely shift that narrative to one of feeling at ease with one’s self. The reset that happens when we warm and lengthen our cold, tight muscles with yoga and when we quiet our minds in meditation is vital to our mental health. In fact, it’s my antidepressant of choice.

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