Yoga as a Path to Mental Well-Being

There are a growing number of mental health concerns plaguing our country as well as places around the world including, but not limited to; addiction, anxiety, and violent aggression. Addictions include alcohol & drugs, sex, food, social media, and the biggest most common addiction that I see daily is to the phone. My biggest concern is two fold. One; people are not practicing self love and acceptance AND they are not reaching out for help when needed. Two; doctors are prescribing medications rather than exploring the root cause of the emotional triggers and reactions.

Yoga connects the body and mind through breath. Awareness begins with the physical practice on the mat and then carries into daily life. Once we are plugged into ourselves we are better able to cope with stress, anxiety, depression and other emotions rather than try to put a Bandaid over it to cover it up. Yoga centers us and raises our confidence and self esteem. When we are not centered we become extreme. When we are centered we can cope.

Photography by Paul Garrett

Photography by Paul Garrett

There is no easy fix that will work in the long run. We must stay comitted to our mental well being and revisit and reevaluate ourselves daily. We have to want to stand firm against our inner demons and to grow into the best version of ourselves. Love and truth set us free. We must face problems head on in peaceful productive ways and set firm boundries.

Support groups such as AA, Al-Anon, and Co-Dependency all suggest following the 12 steps. I have had clients ask if I had been through one of these programs because they said what I spoke of and taught in class was so similar. I was curious for a long time so I finally attended both AA and Al-Anon groups to understand both perspectives. I was thrilled to learn that many long term treatment centers for addiction use Yoga as therapy. I then ordered The Big Book and Al-Anon Works to deepen my understanding of the twelve steps. Although the twelve steps are similar to the 8 Limbs of Yoga, there are some differences. After much reflection I combined what I found most helpful from both and created my own steps for the Foundations for Living the Best Life. I am starting a Meetup group here in Cincinnati, and I hope that it spreads to create a community of people who want to better themselves through discussions, volunteer work, and outdoor activities, including yoga. My study will continue in December when I take a weekend course for Yoga and addiction and trauma therapy. I look forward to continuing to learn, grow and help others.

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The truth is that we all face obstacles in life and at any given moment we cannot know what others are truly facing. Many times we keep our biggest struggles to ourselves. No matter how happy or confident someone may appear we all have days when we feel we are falling apart. Sometimes we are cracked open to allow our light to shine and to keep pushing forward. We are never alone, but sometimes we need to take responsibility, reach out, ask for help, and tell someone we are not Ok in that moment. You are not a mess and life does not end when we fall down. We need to have the courage and strength to stand up, shake it off and face our insecurities. It is important to pause, breathe, and respond with respect to both yourself and others. Yoga teaches us awareness, acceptance and forgiveness. For me personally I have become more patient, confident, and focused. This does not mean I never have bad days, but rather that I am more equipped to handle those days with grace and love. When I feel down or unsure, the first thing I do is get on my mat. If I have low energy I may only move a little, but it always brings me back home, grounds me, and brings great clarity.

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I hope that when you face the next obstacle in your life that you will reach out. Ask a friend to try yoga with you, visit a support group, or read and try my Foundations for Living the Best Life. We all deserve to be happy and to have abundance in our lives. We all have a divine spark within. So be your authentic self and shine bright. You never know who you may help by sharing your story or even asking someone how they are doing. When we accept our differences and learn from each other, we grow stronger as a community.

Mindfully Yours, 



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