Updated: Oct 15, 2020
Today is Mental Health Awareness Day. It is such poignant timing for me as lately I’ve been feeling a little like I’ve been treading water struggling to stay afloat. Since being honest with myself, letting the self-denial drift down stream, and reaching out to family and friends I’ve felt a significant change in my sense of wellbeing and overall life. I now feel like that otter in creature comforts all chiller floating on his back... Ya know the one?
It’s totally normal to have these ups and downs, they ebb and flow in and out offering us a chance to take stock and grow. As humans we have a of a tendency of comparing ourselves and our lives to other’s... Myself included! Instagram can be an absolute killer for this. But the secret is that Social Media usually only captures the happier moments. How often do you want to have your photo taken when you’re feeling low? I know it’s the last thing on my mind.
As a yoga teacher you take on a particular role (when the class is taking place). You hold a safe space so the students can be held and feel safe in vulnerable poses or emotional states. But outside of the Shala or the studio I really am a very normal person just like you with a normal amount of ups and downs.
The problem is that society often suggests 'normal' to be constant happiness.
There’s been times when I’ve felt students think I must really have my s**t together as I’m outwardly positive and smiley, or people have admired my lifestyle as a travelling yoga teacher wishing to to the same. But going away travelling doesn’t make your worries and fears disappear. Travelling is exhilarating and amazing and incredible fun, you have time to relax and chill. When life on the road slows down you also have more time to be with your thoughts, to work through them, and particularly as a solo traveller this can be tough.
Don’t get me wrong, I love my life and I have had the best time away. But it’s also important to highlight that travelling isn’t going to fix anything. Life is still there in full motion, with all its peaks and troughs. As a yoga teacher I feel it’s important to be transparent and honest about these things as in the past there was a time when I thought permanent happiness was a possibility and when I didn’t feel happy I thought that I was a failure or outsider which simply isn’t true. And on the flip side, I've also thought that because I'm a yoga teacher I should always have my s**t together but that just ain't realistic or humanly possible so why beat myself up about it?
Yoga and meditation carried me through some stressful times and I'm passionate about sharing its power to heal so others can experience the same benefits. Yoga helps you connect with who you are, with your body, and helps you mindfully navigate through the ever-changing landscape of life.
I may be a teacher but I'm no different. My mind is still busy, I still have hang ups about my body, I still wake up some days and don’t feel like talking to anybody, but I have the tools for acknowledging these states of mind and greater motivation for working with them.
After each obstacle I come out stronger, ready for the next hurdle that might come along.
Life is a beautiful rollercoaster and without the low times we wouldn’t appreciate the gift of real happiness and serenity. When I was living at the beautiful Akasha Wellness Centre in Romania I read a beautiful quote in The Heart of The Buddha’s Teachings by Thich Nhat Hahn which always reminds me of why we experience life differently each day:
“The foundation of happiness is mindfulness. The basic condition for being happy is our consciousness of being happy. If we are not aware that we are happy, we are not really happy. When we have a toothache, we know that not having a toothache is a wonderful thing. But when we do not have a toothache, we are still not happy. A non-toothache is very pleasant. There are so many things that are enjoyable, but when we don’t practice mindfulness, we don’t appreciate them. When we practice mindfulness, we come to cherish these things and we learn how to protect them. By taking good care of the present moment, we take good care of the future. Working for peace in the future is to work for peace in the present moment.”
Mental Health Self Care Practice
This Mental Health Awareness Day take time to check in with yourself and be honest. Stand tall in Tadasana, Mountain Pose, and give yourself time to be heard. Stand with feet hip distance apart, knees soft, shoulders melting down the back, hands besides your hips, loose and easy. Then ask yourself on an emotional, physical, mental (and maybe even spiritual) level…
Where am I?
Where do I want to be?
Do I feel comfortable standing on my two feet?
How can my foundation in life support me more?
This practice could leave you feeling empowered and strong, or it could flag up the need to reach out to someone close to you and ask for help. Either of these responses are totally natural and a part of this human life. Welcome whatever you discover and feel proud for taking the time to care for your Mental Health. We spend so much time in the gym and maintaining a healthy physical fitness, but Mental Health is just as (if not more) important.