October 10th was World Mental Health Day. Mental Health is finally coming to the forefront of conversation and it’s importance cannot be overstated. The same way you take care of your physical body, you need to take care of your mental health and clarity. We wanted to talk about how exercise can play an important role in the spectrum of mental health. We have a lot of beautiful ladies who come to class and tell us “I leave feeling so much better than when I came in”… but what you may not know is that there is a scientific reason for that (are our bodies amazing or what?!).
There are many studies that show that exercise can help treat depression and anxiety and relieve some symptoms that come with those things. There are a few reasons that regular exercise can help. The science-y (Yeah. We made that word up) reason being that it promotes chemical changes in your brain. It can help your neurons regenerate and form new activity patterns, as well as releasing endorphin’s which is an important chemical in your brain that gives you energy and makes you feel good. The not so science-y reason is that it can give you a distraction. Something for your mind to focus on other than the thoughts that are making you anxious. Exercise can help calm you and relax you, and be a sort of escape for your mind, helping you to quiet racing thoughts, or negative thoughts. Exercise also relieves tension and stress.
There are some specific yoga poses that can help treat anxiety, depression, and stress… but we’ll save those for another blog post. The benefits of exercise are endless. You sleep better, have more energy, and you just feel good. This is not some plug to get you coming in to our studio, even though we wouldn’t hate to see your beautiful face at a class. This is just to encourage you to take care of yourself. Even if it’s going for a short walk outside and listening to the birds and feeling the wind on your face. The tiniest thing can make a huge difference.
Below our instructors share their thoughts on exercise and how it has changed their mental well-being:
“I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression at age 19. To most of the outside world, I appear to be a productive, happy person. A new term that is being used is “highly functioning.” However, that doesn’t mean my daily inner struggle is any less severe. Since my diagnosis, I’ve practiced a balancing act with my life, medication, therapy, and coping strategies. Two of the best strategies I have found are Positive Self Talk and Yin Yoga. Rare Bird gives me a chance to practice both of these and to share them with others. You have to be good to yourself and treat yourself with kindness. You are your own personal best friend and should love yourself unconditionally. That’s where the Positive Self Talk comes in. I have a mental illness, but that doesn’t make me any less of a person. If anything, it has made me stronger and more empathetic. I try to focus on the good that is in me and the good that I do. Does it always work? Of course not! There are days that I talk so negatively to myself. I call myself crazy or illogical. I get mad at myself for not being able to let go of things or brush things off. I want to hide under the covers and pretend I live in a different world or I just want to escape by sleeping for days. But inevitably, I always find a way to get back up and love myself. It takes practice and lots of perseverance. Yoga, especially Yin Yoga, has been yet another successful tool for me. It helps me slow down, breathe, and often changes my perspective. Instead of thinking about all the troubles and stress I have on a particular day, I can get on my yoga mat and use guided imagery to become something else or to be somewhere else. This helps me calm down and breathe. It helps me feel grounded and centered. And after about an hour of yoga, I always feel like my stressors aren’t so bad after all. They magically become manageable or less important. There are no adequate words to explain how these practices have changed my life and how they move me on a daily basis. They have saved me in more ways than one.” -Shelby Day, Yin Yoga Instructor
“If you feel too much, there’s still a place for you here. If you feel too much, don’t go. If this world is too painful, stop and rest. It’s okay to stop and rest. If you need a break, it’s okay to say you need a break. This life – it’s not a contest, not a race, not a performance, not a thing that you win. It’s okay to slow down. You are here for more than grades, more than a job, more than a promotion, more than keeping up, more than getting by. This life is not about status or opinion or appearance. You don’t have to fake it. You do not have to fake it. Other people feel this way too. If your heart is broken, it’s okay to say your heart is broken. If you feel stuck, it’s okay to say you feel stuck. If you can’t let go, it’s okay to say you can’t let go. You are not alone in these places. Other people feel how you feel. You are more than just your pain. You are more than wounds, more than drugs, more than death and silence. There is still some time to be surprised. There is still some time to ask for help. There is still some time to start again. There is still some time for love to find you. It’s not too late. You’re not alone. It’s okay – whatever you need and however long it takes – it’s okay. It’s okay. If you feel too much, there’s still a place for you here. If you feel too much, don’t go. There is still some time.”
(Link to this blog and others can be found here)
**This blog IS NOT suggesting that exercise can or should take the place of medication. We firmly believe in the power of medication, and therapy, but we also believe that exercise can be a great accompaniment to those things when it comes to your mental well-being.