Today's Daily Tip
Yoga for Depression, Part II
It can be useful to get out a pad of paper and try to list all you have to be grateful for. When you think about all the things that had to happen even for you to be born, it's a miracle you are here. Then there are all the people who've loved you, fed you, cared for you, and educated you throughout your life. It's also helpful to be thankful for the practice of yoga, which has been passed to us from masters who lived thousands of years ago, and the line of teachers extending from them to the present day. Such an exercise is an example of what Patanjali called "cultivating the opposite." The more you practice this—even if it's torturous at first—the deeper your "gratitude samskara" will become, and the more it can contribute to your well-being in the long run.
Taking a Step, No Matter How Small
Your students' journey out of depression begins with a single step from wherever they are right now. If they are severely depressed, it may be a struggle for them to practice at all. In that case, could you get them to commit to doing a single Sun Salutation, or even a single Down Dog Pose, every day? (Of course, once they get on their mats, they may find themselves doing more.) Or perhaps you could encourage them to study their interior dialogues to understand how recurrent thoughts may be sabotaging recovery. In severe cases, especially if suicide seems like a possibility, don't hesitate to refer your students to a doctor or psychotherapist. Even if such professional help is necessary, yoga can play a complementary role, likely rendering any psychotherapy or medication more effective.
Better still, even though yoga tends to help reverse depression slowly, its ultimate aim is much higher than achieving the "everyday discontent" that Freud viewed as the goal of psychoanalysis. Yoga, in contrast, teaches that life can be peaceful, full of purpose, happy, and even joyful, and that the source of that joy and contentment is found deep inside in each of us. Various yoga practices are simply tools to help get us there.
Dr. Timothy McCall is a board-certified internist, Yoga Journal's Medical Editor, and the author of the forthcoming book Yoga as Medicine: The Yogic Prescription for Health and Healing (Bantam, July 31, 2007). He can be found on the Web at www.DrMcCall.com.
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