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by: Wendy Du, BaliniSports Ambassador

Often we hear from yoga teachers or read from yoga blogs that all happiness comes from within you. I didn’t really believe this when I first read it on a yoga blog in high school. Lots of external things make me happy, how could I be happy without external influences? It wasn’t until I started a consistent yoga practice that I realized it would be one of the concepts I live by.

In high school, I suffered from depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem. They felt like permanent storm clouds in my mind, except the sun didn’t shine from behind them. I constructed impossible reasons why I couldn’t be happy and I couldn’t love myself. Everything I tried to do to create a sense of happiness only gave me a temporary high, and every glimpse of happiness y moment seemed to be followed by days of numbness and self-hate. In a school system that teaches postponed happiness, – “You will be happy when you get that grade/acceptance letter/car/job,” sound familiar? – long-term happiness seemed like a distant dream. I thought depression was an inevitable part of life that everyone had to suffer through to some extent, and I never thought there would be a way to escape it.

My high school started to offer yoga as an after school activity in the middle of my sophomore year. When I told a few of my friends that I had depression, one or two a few would throw in the “you should do some yoga” phrase that I had read on the internet so many times. It always sounded like they were belittling the gravity of my situation, and I never thought yoga would actually help. But the chance was right there, so why not take it? I had some dance experience, and I thought yoga would be something easy and relaxing for me to do.

Not only was it far from easy, some of the poses made me incredibly frustrated and challenged me more than I wanted to be challenged at the time. The first few classes, I would leave more riled up than I was when had started. However, after a few trying practices, I found a sense of stillness and peace in the final relaxation (savasana) that I was never able to find before. I didn’t know how to describe the feeling, but in the moments of savasana, I was able to let go of any feelings of incompetency and insecurity I felt every other waking moment. Incorporating yoga into my life was a struggle for years. Some days, I would convince myself that yoga wouldn’t make me feel better. But there was never a day I regretted getting on the mat.

In college, I started developing a daily yoga practice. I sought out more teachers, and I took a yoga teacher training. In this process, I learned a few things.

  1. Yoga isn’t always going to be easy-going and relaxing. I have cried over emotional releases on the mat more times than I can count, but at the end of the storm, there is always stillness. The stillness is always worth it.
  2. Progress isn’t always a straight line, as was the case with both my practice and my emotional health. At first this frustrated me, but it taught me that acceptance, discipline, and faith will always bring you farther than self-criticism, over-working, and anger.
  3. You will always get more out of yoga than you initially wanted; no matter why you turned to yoga, you will get what you came for and much more. You will also see your desires change over time. If you came to yoga for just a physical workout, you may later come to the mat for solace and peace as well.
  4. The outcomes you experience come from your choices, and your choices only. While this initially gave me a sense of self-loathing for causing all sorts of undesirable situations for myself, it eventually gave me a sense of peace. When it comes to which path you choose, you make the road signs.
  5. You will start feeling really good about yourself. Certain things that were difficult will start to feel easy. This will be strange at first, but know that this is how you are meant to and allowed to feel. Allow the self-love to flow in, guilt-free.
Although I didn’t really drop or gain any dress sizes, change my financial situation, or switch up my make-up routine, I became I happier person. Today, I am able to wake up without a sense of dread. I am able to look into the mirror without wanting to change every little thing about my face. I am able to walk through the world without feeling the need to apologize for my existence. I still struggle with the occasional anxiety attack, and some days, I am reluctant to get out of bed. But, the difference now is that I know whenever I want to experience the state of peace and acceptance my mind and body are meant to feel, I don’t need to look far and wide. I just need to show up on the mat and ask it of myself.
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