mental health week personal story

How yoga and meditation changed my life

To celebrate the start of Mental Health Week, former addict Rachel O’Connor shares her personal journey of recovery and how yoga and meditation helped her along the way.

Mental Health Week kicks off today in Ireland, and as the whole country turns their attention towards mental health we’re starting our series of information, personal stories and expert advice for those struggling. First up, is Rachel O’Connor.

She says: “Yoga and meditation are windows into the soul and completely transformed the way I think about myself, others, and the world around me. Here are three ways yoga helped me and three ways I think it can hep you.”

Meditation made me present

A lot of people think that meditation is sitting crossed legged on the floor and sounding out “om” again and again. While this might be one way people stay mindful, it’s not the only way. Being mindful is less about the act and more about what you are thinking of. When you are truly mindful, you are only thinking of the present. You’re not stressing about what happened in the past or what might come in the future. With so many daily obligations, this sense of mindfulness can be difficult to achieve. But just like anything, it takes consistent practice.

When I think of the word mindful, I think of two scenarios: is your mind full, meaning that it’s full of stuff? Or are you mindful, meaning that you are living in the present? Get it, mind-full versus mindful?

Yoga taught me about myself

For those who don’t know much about yoga, it’s about much more than designer leggings, pretzel poses, and deep breathing. At the center of yoga practice are chakras, or your subtle body. Andrea Ferretti shares what chakras are, saying: “the subtle body is a part of you that you can’t see or touch—it’s where your energy flows, which is why it’s also referred to as the energy body. There are seven key points in the subtle body that are thought to be vortexes of energy, known as chakras.”

For me, the practice of yoga is centered around aligning my chakras to create the best version of myself. When your heart, mind, and soul are functioning properly, you have a strong sense of who you really are. This deep sense of self transformed me and the way I see my life and loved ones.

I learned how to manage my stressors

Yoga is a natural way to relieve stress. Spending an hour or so a day just being with yourself will quickly melt your problems away. In addition, did you know that yoga can help manage behavioral disorder symptoms and substance abuse? Many rehabilitation facilities are using yoga and meditation as alternative forms of therapy, and it’s working. These practices help those struggling with addiction to focus on more than just their cravings. Yoga Journal has a great piece on the many ways that yoga can help addiction recovery, including developing a positive relationship with physical sensations, such as cravings, rather than shaming them.

In addition to managing large life changes such as addiction recovery, yoga helped me manage my daily stressors. Things that used to upset me or give me anxiety don’t bother me anymore because I can grasp the whole picture, rather than just the single event.

Everyone’s journey is different, but yoga has transformed my life in many ways. Understanding my body’s natural energies has helped me understand where I am strong and where I can grow and learning about being in the present has saved me from stress and anxiety time and time again.

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