Vail health column: Yoga to ease anxiety and depression
Ryan Summerlin December 17, 2012
As a yoga teacher, I’ve found that one of the most revealing questions asked of us in teacher trainings as a means of reflective journaling is “What is your greatest fear?” Because almost exclusively, the answer is some variation of “I fear I am not enough.”This sense of lack may not entirely fit with your image of a yogi, especially if that image has been shaped by certain magazines that present a serene view of the yoga world, accompanied by a photo featuring a perfect, saffron-robed body. Yes, we meditate (hopefully). We set peaceful intentions (hopefully). But my best friend, also a yoga teacher, and I have concluded we spend far more time: eating pizza, paying bills, having imaginary arguments, and losing countless hours of our lives to TV shows about sexy serial killers in Miami. In short, we’re human. We stub our toes and throw tantrums. We drink wine. We have good days and terrible days. We compare ourselves to others. We fear that we are not enough.Wait, with all this yoga and meditating, isn’t life all inner peace and compassion you ask? Practicing yoga will not solve all your problems. In fact, let’s throw out the idea that lack, worry, anxiety and depression are even problems to be solved. But I believe it can help.Unfortunately, despite all efforts to the contrary, yoga and meditation will most likely illuminate your inability to be serene and peaceful. All of the usual characters are still there you see – the anxieties and neuroses, the mental revisionism. Only there’s less distraction. And the clock is ticking louder. But the word “Buddha” simply means “awake.” I view yoga and meditation as an opportunity to slow down enough that you can wake up to your own life, and participate in it. You can start to see your own behavior, claim the power of choice between reaction and response, and get back into your own body.I’ve become far more interested in how yoga can change your life than in what you do on your mat. Much of my study in recent years has been directly linked to the application of yoga as therapy for anxiety and depression.From the perspective of Ayurveda, the ancient “sister science” of yoga, depression is recognized as having two distinct characteristics. It can either be the dizzying spirals of anxiety that uproot us and leave us feeling disembodied and unable to focus or connect. Or it is the deep, heavy depression that takes up residence in your being and keeps you from leaving your bed. Further, anxiety and depression will naturally be magnified when it’s cold, dark, and we’re busy (Hint: right now!).That is why this Winter Solstice, I am offering “Yoga to Ease Anxiety & Depression” at the Vail Vitality Center. This practice was founded on the belief that yoga helps to create spaces of ease in the effort of managing states of depression and anxiety through embodiment, connection and emotional release. The practice begins with a slow, intelligent flow series that unfolds confidence and directionality. The second half of the session is a nourishing Anjali restorative yoga practice that tempers the swell of anxiety. Most importantly, this practice can be experienced by everyone.Come join us on the longest night of the year for a practice of potent relief and vitality. Yoga to Ease Anxiety & Depression takes place Friday at the Vail Vitality Center, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Cost is $18 in advance and $23 the day-of. Julia Clarke is the yoga coordinator and a yoga instructor at the Vail Vitality Center. She moved to the U.S. from Scotland 11 years ago and made Colorado her home in 2009. For more information about the Vail Vitality Center, visit www.vailvitalitycenter.com.