Treating Depression with Yoga

Deborah Gray Health Guide
  • Yesterday I started doing my yoga again. I know it’s hard to believe, but with a couple of Web sites, a 3-year-old son, multiple sclerosis, laundry, housework and countless other responsibilities, I actually have trouble finding time to do it, which is a really big mistake as far as my overall health is concerned. We’ve been going through a stressful period the last few months — moving across the country, my husband changing jobs and my decision to close my bath and body business. I should have known that now is when I need my yoga practice most.

    I’m one of those people who internalize everything – stress, anger, frustration. Even when I was a teenager I had an ever-present knot of tension in the back of my neck. Very unhealthy, but hey, that’s why I’m in therapy. I need to figure out how to vent constructively.

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    Before I had my first MS attack, I worked out aerobically five or six times a week. For me, it was the best way to essentially wring the stress out of my body. My muscles were strong and flexible and I felt good all the time. The MS took that away in one day. I kept trying to work out for a while, but the muscle fatigue made it impossible. I mourn the loss of my physicality more than anything I’ve lost to MS. In particular, exercising to get rid of stress helped me to keep depression away. For me, at least, stress and depression are linked.

    I started doing yoga a couple of years ago, which I never had the patience for before MS. I preferred the more active workouts when I was MS-free, and yoga bored me. Well, I have patience for a lot of things now – I have no choice but to move at a slower pace. Plus, yoga helps to keep me flexible – MS can cause spasticity, whereby your muscles continuously contract, making them very tight and stiff. I’ve had it for years. I can literally pull a muscle by reaching behind myself to get something.

    Now that I’m getting back into my yoga routine, I know that I will have to be patient (not my strong suit by any means) as my body loosens up gradually. I can’t jump right back into the more challenging postures. But once I get there, it’ll be worth it. Yoga forces my busy mind to slow down and concentrate on one thing. I cherish that time in which I listen to my body and am happy with the way it’s moving and working — instead of being frustrated with what it can’t do anymore.

    What do you do - physical, mental or otherwise - to relieve stress? I'd love to hear.

Published On: January 12, 2006