One of the best things my mom ever did for me was probably the hardest for her.

While I was deep in depression during high school, she tried her hardest to motivate me to show up on time. Mornings were the worst, with a close second being right before I went to bed, followed by everything in between.

One evening, after I sullenly refused to eat dinner (oh yes, hunger strikes were my thing) she broke her usual cycle of trying.

She came upstairs and, standing in the door frame of my room, took a risk:

“Every time I bend over backwards for you — well, this time I’m not gonna do it.”

And then she left.

I sucked in my breath. This wasn’t what I was used to hearing. This was important. Like a journalist who latches on to the perfect pull quote during an interview, I got out a Post-It and scribbled down her words.

In that declaration of non-help, I began to see my mom as a person — not just as a total giver of self, but as a separate self. A self whom I made suffer because of my own inescapable suffering.

This was the seed in my depressed teenage mind: You and your inner world is not all that is. There are others here, too. Pay attention to them.

My mom taught me that sometimes you need to walk away in order to help others move forward.

The first 2 steps

It’s hard to walk away when your loved ones are hurting. Even harder to know when you can do this safely. But if my mom hadn’t stepped aside when she did, my self-pity cycle would have taken longer to break.

I didn’t know about yoga when I was 17, but if I had I’d have done two things differently: 1. Realize that my 24/7 melancholy headspace was a temporary sensation, and 2. Take a cue from my mom and literally bend over backwards so she didn’t have to do it for me.

From those less-than-ideal growing pains comes my current prescription for every day doldrums:

  1. Don’t let your identity be ruled by your current emotions, and
  2. Move that body in a way it’s not used to moving.

It’s really that simple — and difficult at the same time. The first because you don’t just wake up one day and disassociate with all your emotions. The second because a body at rest tends to stay at rest.

But if you can think “I am not this” the next time you’re mired deep and if you can come to the mat for just 10 minutes (let it be cats/cows, bridges and cobras) — bye bye, doldrums.

Step number 3

There’s a third step, of course, because steps come better in three’s: Nothing is permanent.

Since I was a child, I’ve created moments of tiny, pinpointed clarity that made me feel special. Like the imaginary horse that trotted alongside the school bus and could only touch grass. Hop, driveway. Hop, sidewalk. Hop, intersection.

I still have moments like these but they’re based in reality. Just the other day, sitting upstairs with a Rocky Mountain view, I spotted a black bird perched on a power line. Who else was looking at this bird right now? And so the game begins.

If you play along, you start to notice not just your role in the looking, but the looking itself. Little bird balancing on a swinging wire. What is he doing there? What does it look like from his perspective?

And then I feel small. Smaller than small. I realize that life goes on around me always and I notice maybe .00000000001% of it. If I’m lucky.

I start to wonder when the bird will fly away. I’m worried where he will go. How long will he survive off the safety of the wire?

I blink and then he’s gone. And I frown because I didn’t notice him leave.

You can’t let your birds stick around too long if they’re holding you back. Doldrums usually come along and pinky promise they’ll be your best friend, but don’t believe them.

It’s time to take a cue from mom and walk away.

Altogether now: the 3 steps to evade every day doldrums:

  1. Don’t let your identity be ruled by your current emotions.
  2. Move that body in a way it’s not used to moving.
  3. Remember, nothing is permanent.

Try it: Happy Baby Pose, Ananda Balasana

Tap into that new babe energy where doldrums have no place with Happy Baby Pose. Just like it sounds, I like to remind myself in this posture that when I was a newborn, I delighted in touching my toes.

And even better, I didn’t need strategies to be happy: I just was.

  1. Lie on your back and bend your knees into your chest. Move your knees toward your armpits as you reach for the outer edges of the feet. Gently press your elbows on the insides of the legs as you hook your fingertips on the bottoms of the feet.
  2. Elongate the spine by pressing the pelvis down into the mat. Allow the shoulders and back of the head to rest on the mat. Take a deep breath in as you press feet into fingers and work the knees toward your armpits.
  3. If you like, roll gently side to side on the low back. Take 6 smooth inhales and exhales and consciously loosen your grip on the feet to soften the arms.
  4. Release your grip on a exhale and bring the knees back into the chest. Encircle your arms around your legs to give yourself a squeeze before rolling to one side and coming back up to seated.