May – Mental Health Month

I didn’t know May was Mental Health Awareness Month until I was asked to facilitate a yoga / meditation session for a local support group. What an amazing group of strong men & women – I was humbled by their courage to attend this session, by their open-ness to trying a little yoga, & by their honest assessment of their experience after the practice.

“I feel I can breathe a little easier.” “I feel a little calmer.” What precious feedback.

I didn’t know:

https://www.nami.org/NAMI/media/NAMI-Media/Images/IntoMentalHealth/IntoMH-Facebook-Timeline.png

I didn’t know:

https://www.nami.org/NAMI/media/NAMI-Media/Images/IntoMentalHealth/IntoMH-Facebook-Timeline-2.png

There’s much I do not know about mental illness … I do know that I have judged others out of my own ignorance and fear.

My personal yoga practice continues to evolve my understanding of myself — my body, my mental / emotional states, my spiritual path. I’m only scratching the surface of the Yoga Sutra (ancient text explaining the goal and practice of yoga) and the understanding that I practice these 8 limbs of yoga to reveal my True Self, rather than seek something or someone outside of myself to validate or make me better.

This refreshing understanding contradicts certain religious interpretations that we’re born incomplete, in need of fixing, or “sinful.” (Growing up & continuing to practice in the Lutheran faith tradition, I’m only now moving past a dualistic “sinner-saint” thing — I think we’re all much more nuanced than that, & maybe Jesus saw us as more too.)

This not-enoughness plagues so many of us, myself included … & I don’t know about you … it certainly affects my mental well-being.

I do not claim to know the very real thoughts/feelings of hopelessness, frustration, fear, sadness, shame, or anxiety associated with mental illness. I hope if you or someone you know is struggling — and we all do know someone according to the above “1 in 5” statistic — that you use your yoga practice to cultivate light and compassion within yourself so that you may be present for yourself or that someone. Note: There’s no need to change you or offer solutions to someone else — your presence is enough.

What about mental well-being? Cultivating that inner sense of well-being, ease, stability? Enough-ness? Here are some practices that I’m working with —

  • Morning Routine – Practices that both cleanse & nourish – tongue scraping, dry brushing, abhyanga, neti pot, tea & journaling.
  • Simple Asana – no fancy poses or expectations, just simple yet profound hatha sequences that provide grounding and stability.
  • Meditation -Taking time to retreat, get to know myself, and that myself is enough.
  • Taking in my dogs’ joy – Baxter & Tortilla are always, always, ALWAYS happy to see me. When I wake up in the morning, they’re eager to get going. When I come home from work, they wiggle & waggle with delight. When we’re relaxing in the evening, they want to be close. I can’t believe I take this devotion for granted some days.
  • Social Connection – This one can be difficult for me as an introvert – I recharge in solitude. Contrary to popular belief, introverts like me really do enjoy people & socializing, it just takes more energy so we need to retreat (for our mental well-being!).
  • Honoring my Daily Rhythms – I’m not good at this one. I go to bed way later than my body wants to … & struggle to rise even though I LOVE mornings. So, I have an intention for summer ;).

So, consider your mental well-being this month. Recommit to your practices, or start a new practice (maybe click here). Let’s commit to cultivating compassion and a sense of enough-ness — for ourselves and especially for those seeking their own mental well-being in the midst of struggle. Learn more about Mental Health Month here: NAMI.

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