by Rae Broderick
I am a yoga guide and I take medication to treat anxiety and depression.
For a long time, the above truth would have made me want to hang my head in shame.
“I am a yoga guide! I do ALL the things! I meditate, move my body, and hydrate! I pull oracle cards and honor the phases of the moon! I can’t take a pill. Surely, I just need to do acupuncture more regularly and have my sister-in-law send some Distance Reiki my way.”
In no way do I mean to discount or demean any of the above practices. I still use these tools on the regular but, after hitting my rock bottom in 2021 amidst maintaining consistency in my laundry list of wellness routines and even throwing talk therapy into the mix, I knew I needed more support. It was my therapist who finally gave me the perspective I needed: I was treading water and I needed something to help me float. I could still stay in the waters of my feelings but not have to work so damn hard and, friends, I was tired.
It was then that I knew I was gonna need a bigger toolbox.
Before we go any further, please know that my experience is not a call to action to rush to a doctor and procure a tiny pill to make everything better (it won’t but more on this later) but rather an exploratory invitation to discover what works for you.
In honor of World Mental Health Day on October 10, I wanted to share my story in hopes that it could help to support others in feeling less alone, to remind people that no two journeys are alike and that your own, if you’re truly connected to your body and your breath, will shift, twirl, twist, and change as you continue to peel back the layers of yourself and take good care of you.
Most importantly, I want to help remove the stigmas and the judgments that exist around mental health, especially within the yoga community.
If, like me, you’ve been a part of the “wellness industry” for even a brief period of time, you know the deep-seated dis-ease and unwellness that exists beneath its many layers and iterations.
In part, this is due to the number of opinions and theories of self-proclaimed gurus in the forms of companies, teachers, and influencers, high on control, power, and likes that thrive on and profit from making us believe we can’t trust ourselves which, if, like me, you’ve studied yoga for any length of time, you know that these harmful practices are in direct contradiction to its philosophies and history.
Another culprit is that those in leadership roles like yoga instructors/coaches/teachers aren’t practicing what we preach in that we are supporting and encouraging others to take care of themselves without doing it ourselves.
This may seem honorable but, ultimately, it’s not sustainable. As we know from our handy airline instructional safety cards, it’s necessary to put on our own oxygen mask first.
Whether you’ve gotten so caught up in the business/busyness and noise of projecting a version of you that appears to have all the answers and/or you’re so exhausted from filling everyone else’s cup but your own, it’s okay. You can begin with this inhale, with this exhale.
Below are what I hope are some gentle reminders to encourage you on your path as you become a greater advocate for and an active participant in taking good care of your mental health:
• Let go of what it looks like and pay attention to how it feels. In yoga, we can be so fixated on having our Triangle Post or Warrior 3 look like we’re on the set of a Yoga Journal photoshoot that we negate how the shape is feeling in our body. We wind up injured, disconnected, and misaligned from our internal landscape because we are so focused on the external. The same is true of our mental health. It is not one size fits all. Your healing is not meant to look like anyone else’s.
• Consistency is key. Keep showing up. I once heard that people come to yoga for one reason and end up staying for an entirely different reason. I think the same is true of taking care of our mental health in that we may embark on this exploration to navigate one area of our life but stay in it once we realize all the layers we have yet to peel back and discover about ourselves and how much better all the other stuff in our life gets as a result. At the start, it will most likely be uncomfortable. Keep showing up.
• Soften. Give yourself permission to let go and release. If you lead and/or practice yoga, you’ve probably heard a loved one say they can’t do yoga because they can’t touch their toes. While touching toes isn’t the goal of yoga, more often than not they can be reached when people give themselves the permission to bend the knees and soften. Let yourself let go.
• Build a bigger toolbox and choose your tool accordingly. Nowadays, wellness practices have become weaponized. They are another way we measure success, failure, health, and illness. No pain, no gain, right? Yoga reminds us to be in the present moment. We are constantly changing as should our mental health practices. What worked for us in the past may not be what we need right now at this stage in our lives. Give yourself permission to change your mind. If, like me, you do take medicine for additional support, know, too, that this may or may not be a forever thing. Trust your gut and seek additional professional support when required. Like choosing a yoga class where one day you may favor a breath-based flow while another you want an ooey-gooey restorative practice, there are going to be days where you favor a certain mental health practice over another or a varying combination of a few things such as movement over journaling or a quiet night in with a book over a night out with friends. Tune in to what you need now. Take what you need and leave the rest. There’s no wrong way, only your way. Some days we may favor a breath-based flow while others a more restorative practice.
• Surround yourself with unconditional support. While our practice may be personal, it thrives in a community of like-minded people. Again, these people may not be ones you leaned on earlier in your life and that’s okay. Know you aren’t alone and that there are many people navigating their own murky waters who just want someone to float alongside them. When I shared my decision to take medication to support my mental health on Instagram, I got more comments and private messages of support, kindness, and solidarity than any post about a yoga event or marathon medal.
The very root of the word yoga is union. Bringing awareness and attention to both the physical and the mental practices helps us drop into the importance of the intrinsic connection between the body and the mind to create a truly unique and whole-istic practice that supports our entire well-being both on and off of our yoga mats.
It’s not always easy but it’s worth it.
Rae Broderick is a Thread Trainer, Stråla Yoga + Meditation Guide based in NJ.
Rae Broderick is a Stråla Yoga + Meditation Guide based in NJ. She helps people create sustainable wellness practices for their everyday life. She believes healing is rooted in feeling + that small, consistent shifts have the biggest impact. She encourages people to slow down, to listen to their bodies, observe how they feel + explore what they can do to honor those feelings. She has a personal practice of over 20 years + has been guiding the movement + lifestyle practice of Stråla Yoga for nearly a decade. She has led classes, workshops + retreats across the tri-state area, as well as in Ireland. She is also both a Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor + RRCA Running Coach. She enjoys running, reading, coffee + 90s everything.