The quote above is one I think of often as I interact with people wherever I am. We all have our moments when we act less than skillfully. The reasons can be many and varied given the day. But sometimes it's not a matter of being skillful or unskillful. Sometimes it's simply a matter of having a very human experience depending on the challenges we are facing in the moment. Yoga gives us some really wonderful tools for navigating life's challenges.
But I'm here to tell you it isn't always enough.
You may be quite surprised to have a yoga teacher tell you that, but I speak from personal experience. Sometimes yoga just isn't enough to get you through. Sometimes there is no amount of breathing, meditation, movement, mindfulness, philosophy, prayer or focusing on the divine that is going to help you make your way through the challenges of the moment. Sometimes it is just so dark and you are so far down that you may not even be able to call upon your steady practice to get you out.
I've been there. And not so long ago.
After I moved the studio to Milford I reached a breaking point. I have battled anxiety and depression since I was 15 years old, so anxiety attacks were not unfamiliar. It was somewhat interesting to me that it happened AFTER the move was done, but about a month later I started having anxiety attacks that were so bad I really thought I might need to go to the hospital because there was something wrong with my heart. Many challenges were conspiring to bring that about at the time. Moving the studio, my first year teaching a teacher training, personal relationship challenges, etc. Sure I used my yogic tools, but they kept happening and they were approaching debilitating. It was time for something else.
Why am I sharing this with you? Because I'm observing so many things lately in our world. The stigma around life not being neat and perfect (blame social media if you will but this was happening in the world long before social media). The lack of coping mechanisms we are typically brought up with in this society. The shame that often surrounds needing to ask for help, even from those that are closest to us. This is all a recipe for not only unhappiness, but depending on the severity of the issues, danger.
I'm here to tell you that life can really suck sometimes and asking for help is not a shameful act. It's the greatest act of self love and self care you can do. That doesn't mean it's easy. That doesn't mean it isn't hard, but it is so important.
So, I have a therapist. I speak to her nearly every week. She helps me process what's happening in my life at the moment. She helps me process things from my past. She helps me see that I have choices in every moment. She helps me look at the world differently when things are just too overwhelming to bear. She helps me see how my past colors my present and that when I really look at the dark shadows, I can shed light on them and I can be and feel different in the here and now. She listens to me and helps me understand that yes, I have faced more than my fair share of "stuff" and that I'm not crazy to feel the way I feel sometimes.
And as a bonus, she knows who Krishna Das is.
Therapy doesn't make me a bad yogi. It makes me a smart one. I knew that I couldn't climb my way out of my anxiety on my own. I knew that it was time to face some of the demons that had been swept under the rug for far too long. I knew myself well enough to reach out when I couldn't solve it myself and THAT is something that DID come from my yoga practice. As Sally Kempton speaks about in this interview, I was lucky enough to have a solid enough practice and enough experience with discernment to know that my pain was doing injury, not helping me grow. Rather than staying with it, it was time to make a change.
If you are struggling with the deep hard things of life, definitely do your practice. But also don't be afraid to ask for help beyond the yoga mat. Call a friend or family member and see if they can talk to you. Maybe you don't even talk about what's bothering you at the moment but you just talk. Maybe that person knows a good therapist. Maybe you call a national hotline. But remember that therapy is out there and while it may take more than one try to find a person that resonates with you, the seeking is worth it. You are worth it.
If you are local and looking for help and don't know where to begin please check out Milford Regional Counseling Services. I don't have personal experience with them but I've heard good things. If you don't have health insurance they may be able to help.
I wish you peace and a guiding light of hope as you find your way through whatever challenges life is serving you at this moment.
Disclaimer: Not all yoga poses are suitable for all persons. Please consult with your health care provider and obtain full medical clearance before practicing yoga or any other exercise program. The information provided in this blog is strictly for reference only and is not in any manner a substitute for medical advice or direct guidance of a qualified yoga instructor.