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

 

“My journey to becoming physically fit started in college, and it was out of complete desperation. I was at a breaking point with my anxiety. I quickly learned that exercise was a great antidote, but at the time I was still struggling (HARD) with my body image. It wasn’t until a few years later that I began to appreciate my body for what it was. I moved past simply accepting my body to truly valuing it. Punishing myself turned into challenging my limits. Feeling embarrassed about my small cup size and broad shoulders turned into gratitude for having the ability to lift a saddle over a horse’s back. I used to cringe and feel weak when I got a cramp in my side after running a quarter mile; now I can smile when that feeling creeps in after the sixth. When I started this journey, I never expected the psychological, emotional, and spiritual benefits of exercise to outweigh the physical. But the truth is that through discipline I learn I am stronger than I think; by pushing through muscle cramps I learn that struggle reaps rewards; by taking risks, and being willing to fail (or fall) in a yoga posture, I learn I am indeed brave; from sore muscles and fatigue, I am reminded the value of rest; by holding a stretch in silence, I am training to be in tune with my thoughts. And let’s be real: strength, steadfastness, confidence, courage, wisdom and intuition are worth so much more than a six-pack.” -Jennifer Barron, Core Instructor


“Yoga came into my life at the most perfect time. I had a host of issues emotionally, physically, and mentally, including depersonalization, anxiety and depression, and yoga became the number one healing tool on my journey. It gave me a sacred space and practice that restored my nervous system to balance, gave me permission to “just be,” freedom to become my true self, and the ability to experience grace in my spiritual relationship. I also experienced belonging with like-minded people who had their own healing story too. I continue to use yoga to maintain the balance, centering and stability in my brain and body!!” -Victoria Nolen, Birds of Paradise & Slow Flow Instructor


As we said at the beginning. The importance of Mental Health can’t be overstated. There is only one you, and you are so important, valued, and loved. Take care of yourself. Every part of yourself. Don’t apologize for your struggles and don’t feel like you have to be different than you are. Be proud of the battles you have fought and the wars you have won and celebrate exactly who you are in this moment. We are all in this journey together and we can’t do it alone.
We don’t have to do it alone.

We’ll leave you with one of our favorite blogs written by Jamie Tworkowski.

“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.

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