your slightest look easily will unclose me
though i have closed myself as fingers,
you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens
(touching skilfully,mysteriously)her first rose
ee cummings, “somewhere i have never travelled, gladly beyond”
These days, I am petal by petal. Closing, opening. Backbends, forward bends, no bends. I prefer to listen than talk and to be still rather than move.
Oh, hello depression. Are you back again?
You are trying to tell me that none of it matters. I commend you on your incredible marketing. You and the evening news have this downer thing down pat.
Depression, this checklist is what you are up against.
- Drink lots of water.
- Avoid alcohol.
- Take a multivitamin. I like MegaFood.
- Fake a smile each day until it feels real.
- Avoid any and all Pandora stations tagged “most depressing songs ever.” Also Radiohead and Iron & Wine.
- Put yourself in situations where you’re surrounded by people, such as parties and yoga classes.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of All The Things One Should Do to petal by petal create happy momentum. It’s my list of actual Things I’ve Been Able to Do, which is more important.
Of them all, number seven is the most difficult because, depression, you like to alienate people — especially the ones I care about the most. But you also taught this introvert an important lesson:
When you don’t want to be in the world, it’s essential to be around others who do. (tweetable)
Being around others’ aliveness makes me aware of my own. Plus, I find the pressure of not being labeled “what’s wrong with that girl who doesn’t talk to anybody?” at a party strangely motivating.
To play this game, I say things like, “Oh, it’s raining and sunny. Neat.” or “These veggie skewers are sharp.” Anything to help remind me that there is life Out There beyond what it currently feels In Here.
Depression, I am constantly unclosing myself when you come around. I am all faux smiles these days because I heard of this study in the Journal of Pain (seriously, this exists) that found people who frowned during an unpleasant procedure said they felt more pain than those who did not.
I try not to make things worse than they are, but sometimes I lose sight of who is doing the worsening.
Depression, at aforementioned party there was a delicious sounding margarita. But I didn’t drink it because you’re pals with alcohol and why should I give you an advantage?
I haven’t even talked about how I let myself cry really hard yesterday. You probably thought you won that battle, but you’re wrong. This no-name grief has got to go somewhere, and it won’t be in my body.
That means starting today, depression, I am back on my yoga mat with no exceptions.
When I am in my body you cannot be in my mind. There is no time for you when I am concentrating on the fluidity of my breath and awakening to the tenderness in my heart. When I am smiling at myself dripping sweat during my vinyasa. This is the moment when I unclose and come back to myself.
And for that, I thank you.
But this time, depression, you can keep the hopelessness.
Try it: Dolphin Pose Variation, Prep for Forearm Stand
Reasons why this yoga pose is awesome for turning a sad mood around.
- You’re inverted, so blood flow increases to your brain, improving circulation and helping the brain work better so you feel better.
- It forces you to breathe deep in order to hold the pose. Deep breathing stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, kicking in the calm and aiding in reducing stress.
- You feel like a badass no matter how long you hold it.
- Start on hands and knees, stacking your knees under your hips and palms under your shoulders. Place your elbows where your palms are, coming onto the forearms. Press evenly into the palms and forearms, like suction cups on your mat.
- Keep your gaze between your forearms and curl your toes under.
- Inhale and tuck the belly button up into the spine as you straighten the legs (keep knees bent if you have neck or shoulder injuries), sending the hips high. Exhale and draw up from the ankles. Keep the heels lifted and maintain the elbows underneath the shoulders (rather than splaying out to the sides).
- Breathing smoothly, press down firmly into the mat with your forearms and squeeze the shoulder blades together onto the back, as if pinching a pencil between them. Energetically lift from the armpits and then relax the head between your biceps. With this lift in the shoulders, your head should not touch the mat.
- Smooth out your inhales and exhales, lengthening through the spine. Stay here for five deep inhales and exhales, or move into the next step.
- Begin to walk your feet toward your face, shortening your stance and lifting your hips ever higher above your shoulders. If the breath isn’t smooth in this pose, walk your feet back out. Otherwise, continue to lift from active forearms, shoulders and the base of the spine. Stay for three rounds of breath.
- To come out, gently drop your knees to the mat. Widen the knees, bring the toes together and stretch the arms in front of you for Child’s Pose.