How Yoga saved my life: My story
This is the story of how Yoga helped me to overcome some of the greatest challenges in life and transform the way I see the world. It all started in 2013 when I was studying in London. Due to a period of chronic stress, I went through a bout of depression and insomnia that left me awake for 23 days in a row. I remember struggling to understand why this was happening to me and being desperate for some answers. My sleep issues were triggered by stress of migrating from Greece to London, my upcoming exams, and my loneliness.
A psychotherapist prescribed me an antidepressant medication and when I luckily shared this with my tutor, she suggested that I try a few yoga classes. I started going to a gym class on a biweekly basis. It took me only a few weeks to start feeling better, and in a month’s time I was back to my normal sleeping routine with no medication. A few years later, I found myself again having to deal with difficult times in my life, including a stressful job which eventually caused me an episode of burn-out. Here was yoga again; my guardian angel to work some miracles for me. In tense times in my life, Yoga has been always my only way to feel grounded, find the balance from within, and heal myself.
That’s why I decided to compile a list of how yoga changed my life.
Yoga through breathing was what helped me to first heal my emotional wounds back then. I loved pranayama because it was about practicing breathing techniques that help the mind to stay in control. Over a 1-month period, I learned how to manage my stress with my breathing practice. Gradually my sleep improved, mostly because I learned how to switch off my brain.
Yoga helped me to take myself out of the mental struggle of constantly dwelling into the past or planning about the future. I started to understand that to be able to recharge my mind and purify my body, I first needed to stay focused in the present moment. I learned to do that by practicing a body scan meditation, practising paying attention to my breathing patterns while noticing how my body responds. I realised that being able to notice my body’s sensations meant I was better equipped to respond positively, instead of reacting in panic, when I felt my anxiety.
Before being introduced to yoga, I was told by many friends that yoga cultivates self-compassion. Since I remember myself, I was always the worst judge of myself and my tendency for criticising myself all the time was part of the reason that I was becoming an antisocial person. Yoga was the answer to this through meditation. The first meditation session was a turning point in my life. Meditation made me realise how important is to be patient with myself, the power of letting go and how to accept with compassion and love who I am.
I always considered multitasking to be one of my greatest assets. It took me a while to realise that it was my tendency towards over-multitasking which was leading me to be anxious all the time. Yoga gave me some clarity in mind to realise how important was to be able to focus in on only one thing at a time. The balance poses – like the tree pose – taught me how to better concentrate and channel my whole energy, attention, and awareness towards one target. That’s how I learned to achieve my goals without unnecessarily overloading my mind.
Emotional VS Physical reactions
Over-thinking contributed to the chronic stress that I thought was related to my unpredictable emotions that couldn’t possibly control. When I started practicing yoga, my teacher taught me that these emotions interconnect to a number of physical reactions that stress activates. I discovered that if I could notice these physical reactions like upset stomach, tense shoulders, headaches, restless legs I’d be able to use yoga to better manage these body’s reactions and as a result the stress itself. I found that yoga gave me a better understanding of how my own body and mind works together.