by Michelle Gerdes, RYT-200
I can’t remember exactly when I first heard the word “yoga” but it was probably sometime in college in the mid ‘90s. I wasn’t sure what it was all about but I recall being intrigued by something that seemed to be both a spiritual and physical practice. After buying “Yoga for Dummies” (yes, that’s an actual book) and flipping through it, the demands of school and life took over and my interest waned. It wasn’t until I was in my mid-30s that yoga called to me again, and this time I made room for it and its beautiful and bountiful gifts.
I was an editor in a busy and stressful New York City newsroom. I had just come out of my second postpartum depression, with the help of talk therapy and my incredibly supportive husband, and despite “having it all” on paper—prestigious job, nice house in the suburbs, two cars in the driveway, two healthy children, a loving partner—I felt as if something wasn’t right. I wasn’t happy. I wasn’t living my best life. I was living someone else’s idea of what a good life should be.
Sound familiar? It’s reported that about one-third of Americans are experiencing some type of emotional disturbance right now—especially amid Covid-19: depression, anxiety, extreme stress, and with that related conditions like insomnia, feelings of isolation, digestion issues, lack of patience or joy.
At this point I knew I needed to make a change but I had absolutely no idea what that change would look like. And stepping out of my comfort zone felt too scary. It was around this time that I noticed a yoga studio just a few miles from my house. The funny thing is I had passed it hundreds of times and didn’t realize it was there.
I signed up and as I settled in for my first class the teacher did her best to make me feel welcomed, but I’m an anxious person and, to be honest, that first class was an interesting combination of uncomfortable and magical. As I moved my body and felt my breath, the teacher encouraged us to be present in the moment and listen to and respect signals from our bodies. Through this breath, movement and listening I began to catch a glimpse of the peace and joy I had been missing and a true connection with myself. Over time, the discomfort began to melt away as I learned ways to calm my anxiety, trust myself, and recognize and celebrate my innate worth. The changes I needed to make began to become clear. The fear of stepping into my idea of a fulfilling life began to melt away. I discovered myself. I was there all along, but the gifts of yoga allowed me to uncover her and celebrate her! This is yoga.
Simply put, yoga means to “yoke,” as in to join together. We join movement with breath, we join the head with heart, and we join the body with spirit. If you can breathe you can practice yoga. Yoga isn’t about being able to touch your toes or stand on your head. It’s about exploring and practicing its many tools—including breath, movement, and meditation—to help you befriend yourself, your emotions and your nervous system. It provides practices and guideposts to help you lead your best life.
If you are looking for ways to spend more time in a state of wellbeing, if you are seeking tools to help you cope with stress, if you want to map out a route to leading a more fulfilling life, I invite you to join me for the four-week series Yoga for Emotional Wellbeing sponsored by Mindful and Multicultural Counseling in Ewing, NJ. This class will provide a safe space to explore various yoga tools and use them to befriend and join together your unique body, mind and spirit. Find out more about yoga and mindfulness resources here. Check out the intro video below with Dr. Nathalie Edmond and Michelle Gerdes or sample a beginner class.
Mindful and Multicultural Counseling Clinical Team
Therapists and psychologists committed to improving well being and mindful living.