The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
Right hand flailing above my head as I lean to the left, I generously stretch out all the stress in my body through the tension that has been building up in my muscles. Relaxing ocean sounds playing in the background, I position myself into child’s pose and get rid of all my thoughts from this past week. All I allow into my mind are the counts of my breath as I inhale and exhale. Before I realize it, I feel slow, warm tears streaming down my face. Rather than crying tears of sadness, I could tell that my body’s nerve endings were letting go of all my pent up frustration in the form of tears.
To be honest, past me was never one for yoga. Yeah, I liked to romanticize the idea of it, and I enjoyed the sort of aesthetic associated with it, but that was pretty much it. As a person who views rest and relaxation as a reward rather than a basic human necessity, I have always been the most fulfilled running around in vicious circles of never-ending work. However, all of that changed when my first semester of college threw me mentally and physically into a stressful loop.
Entering my second semester, I knew that even though my stubborn “I can help myself get out of things” attitude existed, I made myself actively look for resources on the UT campus. After a counseling session, I was introduced to the myriad of support groups that exist through the Counseling and Mental Health Center (CMHC) on the UT campus. Scrolling through the list of potential groups, I found the perfect fit: Food, Feelings, and Yoga.
Joining the support group has honestly been one of the best decisions I have made in my life. I have learned so much about myself and the world around me, and it has allowed me to come to peace with myself, which is why I have compiled a list of some key things I understood/learnt along the way:
- Setting intentions for yourself.
The main thing I have understood about myself during yoga comes from setting an intention for myself at the beginning of my practice. Through intention, I center myself on one thought while letting go of all stressors. Everything lingering in my mind gets thrown out of my thought process. Right now, it’s just my mind, my body, and the one goal I have for myself. Recently, my intention has surrounded the idea of wanting to create a sense of home within myself rather than looking for it in someone/something else. In doing so, I have exercised a feeling of comfort and belonging within what I have to offer to myself rather than searching for something that the world should not have control over.
- Yoga slows down your mental frequency.
One of the reasons people do yoga before meditation is because as humans, we are consistently at different mental frequencies. As we run at different energy levels, it gets difficult to just focus instantaneously, which is why yoga incorporates exercises into its practice. It allows you to get energy out while centering yourself into a more calm mindset. Once you reach ground zero with yourself, it becomes much easier to enter a state of meditation – which has less activity and more emphasis on your breathing and thoughts. This is also why when we get mad or frustrated, many of us resort to the gym or some intense level of energy release in order to get rid of the high energy within ourselves.
- The “everything Shower” practice.
This one’s a fun little idea Jane, a friend of mine, introduced to me a couple of months ago. Basically think of everything you have to do in the shower like shaving, deep cleansing, washing your hair, etc. Now, allocate a good amount of time for yourself (I typically do something around 20-30 minutes), and go through all of your routines. As you do essentially “everything,” try to remind yourself to stay in touch with your body. I allow myself to really understand the things I overlook on a daily basis. I genuinely feel grateful that I have arms, legs, feet, and everything that my body has to offer me. I don’t give enough credit for the work it does for me, which is something that the “everything shower” has allowed me to reflect on. Forever grateful to Jane for letting me in on her routine.
- taking walks after my yoga session.
I swear, taking a 20-minute walk right after my one-hour yoga session has worked wonders for me. I head out of the yoga studio, put my AirPods in, and play relaxing music as I pay attention to my surroundings while walking. On a typical day, I generally walk to my class in a rushed manner with a clouded mind full of thoughts and homework assignments. But on my yoga walks, I allow myself to really take in the world around me. I walk a little slower and I allow the nature around me to be the only thing I focus on. I genuinely value this time I get to myself because it is honestly the most peaceful time for me mentally during the week.
- Listen to your body.
This is by far the hardest thing I have had to do. After all, it’s the reason why I joined the support group to begin with. However, if there’s anything I have seen while practicing yoga, it’s the fact that I am more connected with my body than I think I am. I forget that my body and mind shouldn’t be at war with each other because, over time, I realized that’s how I programmed my lifestyle to be. By giving my body the attention and generosity it deserves, I also reprogram myself to unlearn the toxic habits I have set over the years. Our bodies genuinely know what is good for us, and by mentally restricting yourself, the conflict between the mind and body takes a toll on all ends.
- Understand your flexibility.
This is your reminder that you don’t have to go into yoga expecting to do very complicated asanas or poses. I had an unrealistic expectation of how I should appear while doing my yoga due to popular culture, but I have learned (the hard way after falling down countless times) that it’s okay to start easy. Yoga is all about respecting your body’s needs while aligning them with your thoughts, so it’s okay to not do something you aren’t comfortable with!
If there’s one thing that phrases up my experience in the support group, it has to be something my friend told me a couple of months ago: “Sreeja, if you’re hungry, eat. If you’re not hungry, don’t eat. That’s it.” I know it sounds quite simple on the surface level, but hearing those words from her made me realize that my body should be my first priority – not the illusions of society around me. I know myself and my body’s needs the best, so why should I let some rigorous diet or fasting routine dictate what I’m supposed to do and not do? Getting to these realizations has not been an easy path, but the rituals of yoga have definitely given me more clarity.
It doesn’t have to be the biggest lifestyle jump. I started off with a couple of yoga exercises in my own dorm room before reaching out for my initial counseling session. Some of my favorite YouTube channels in the process were Yoga With Adriene, Tara Stiles, Aham Yoga, and Yoga with Kassandra. Sometimes I didn’t want to hear an external voice while doing my exercises, so once I got a better hold of various yoga positions, I put on relaxing music of some sort and would go through the rituals by myself.
I’ll be honest – I still have those days when my body falls to the bottom of my list and the thoughts in my mind take over. But if there’s anything I consistently have through the support group and my loved ones around me, it’s the fact that I have faith and I’m still trying. Every day, I hug myself more, I thank my body for giving me all that I have, and I appreciate the little things about myself that I used to overlook. It’s not easy, and I don’t want to glorify a beautiful and simplified solution, because it’s all a process. But what I will guarantee is that reaching out for resources and help in any shape or form is one of the bravest things you can do for yourself. It does get better – I promise.
Link to CMHC support groups & classes: https://cmhc.utexas.edu/groups.html