Depression and anxiety are frequent visitors for me. The trick is to wait them out, not battle them directly. Instead I meditate daily and practice yoga asana – either through my gym membership ($35/month) or online (internet access $80/month).

In my yoga teacher training (approximately $3500), I learned to meditate. Practicing regularly reminds me that I’m not my thoughts, especially not the ones that say, “You suck. You’re a horrible person.” This is only depression talking. 

Yoga asana reminds me that I am patient and strong enough to wait out this enemy. Physical practice connects my mind to my body and to the present. “What am I doing right now? Am I saying that stupid embarrassing thing? Or am I standing here in my kitchen chopping sweet potatoes for my family?” (Learned to ask these questions from my naturopath – approx $110 per session)

Discovering these tools saved my life. It took me years, but I managed it because I had the privileges of a job, health care coverage, family in a position to offer financial support when I needed it, friends who recommended therapists, and a social group that encouraged me to try yoga. 

This is why I volunteer and work for Yoga Outreach. 

Yoga Outreach operates in prisons, addiction recovery centres and mental health facilities – places where residents are often coping with traumatic mental health challenges. Most of the residents have never had access to something like yoga before. 

According to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), 

  • People with a mental illness are twice as likely to have a substance use problem compared to the general population. 

  • Similarly, people with substance use problems are up to 3 times more likely to have a mental illness. 

  • Canadians in the lowest income group are 3 to 4 times more likely than those in the highest income group to report poor to fair mental health.

Unfortunately, some people who have experienced trauma commit crimes that put them in prison. According to an article from the John Howard Society of Canada, “researchers found that about half the people imprisoned in Canada had been victims of at least one form of child abuse – physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse or neglect.”

Now imagine that someone with untreated mental illness has access to a weekly yoga class. 

It’s just yoga. But I know from experience – and you may know also – that yoga class is where you learn to accept and rest. 

How do we know that yoga and meditation help? 

  • Because we’ve had the cash to pay for a class
  • Because someone in our social circle suggested it
  • Because it’s available in our neighbourhood
  • Because it’s what people in our social/economic/ethnic/industry group do when they feel stressed out. 

Yoga Outreach works to overcome these accessibility challenges by bringing yoga into service centres where people really need it most. 

So as I move into my own season of mental health challenges, I’m choosing to dedicate my practice to someone still learning to navigate their own mental health. The Yoga Outreach 21 Day Challenge starts on October 24. This year, instead of focusing on all the good it’s doing ME to stay on track for 21 days, I’ll be thinking about the person who will get a chance to learn these life-saving tools for the first time ever. 

My registration fee of $21 covers the approximate cost for one person to take a weekly yoga class in a social service facility or prison. It’s such a paltry amount for me. And it’s so relatively easy for me to practice a little bit every day now that I know how to do it.  

Will you join me this year in dedicating your 21 Day Challenge to someone who needs to know what you’ve already learned? 

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