Meditation & Mindfulness Yoga & Fitness

How yoga and meditation can support mental health

Holistic Scotland Magazine columnist and Zen yoga teacher Scott Hutchison-McDade shares some self-care tips, along with his own personal experience of how yoga and meditation have helped him through the darkest days

We live in a world where we’re often told to hide how we feel, hide our emotions and put on a brave face. Thankfully, times are changing but the stigma of mental health is still present.

Everyone suffers from anxiety, stress and poor mental health at different points in their lives. No matter who you are or what you do, it’s perfectly normal to have days when you feel low or jaded, or days when the anxiety monster takes control.

As a man who has suffered for a huge part of my life, I know the struggles. I understand the pain and the feelings of hopelessness. My personal journey has taken me on many downward spirals and sheer drops into utter darkness that felt like endless pits of pain and torture.

Looking back, I never felt it was possible to escape when I was so deep in the pit of pain and despair. I felt like these feelings were all-encompassing and would last forever. It felt like it was my new truth.

I bounced from pillar to post, often taking decisions to self-medicate with extreme exercise regimes or drastic changes to my diet or taking mind-altering substances. I never quite understood at the time that this was a form of self-harm. I was on a journey of self-destruction.

The highs lasted a short time, the pain was only gone for a bit and when it came back it felt even more unmanageable. The cycle of highs and lows consumed a large part of my adult life and although I don’t often have bouts of darkness anymore, some days I do wake up and feel clouds of grey looming over me.

I’m much more aware now of my feelings and accept, although painful and hard, these days are important. Without the darkness, there can be no light.

When the clouds return, I know it’s just a bump in the road. I take extra time just for me. I allow myself to feel. I accept myself totally.

I tell my partner; I tell my family. But being honest with myself and sharing with others was a hard lesson to learn. As a man, it’s often hard to open up and to talk and tell someone that everything isn’t okay.

Survival mode is often our default setting. But pretending everything is okay can be damaging and can leave you feeling alone and isolated.

Over the years, there was one consistent saving grace for me and now, more than ever, I feel it’s power. It was like planting a seed of change, a seed of hope deep inside my mind and body.

The saving grace for me was a regular yoga and meditation practise, which is within reach of everybody and can help you overcome feelings of darkness and despair.

Yoga and meditation can be a great tool to aid recovery and continued wellbeing. It’s not just for people in spandex and you don’t need to be flexible or able to touch your toes. Yoga really is for everyone.

For me this regular practise doesn’t stop the clouds, it doesn’t stop the darkness, but it enables me to feel connected to my mind and body. It allows me to be present to experience life unfolding around me.

The dark days aren’t nearly as frequent. They aren’t nearly as long, but now I understand that without darkness there would be no light.

So my advice is to take time just for you. Plant the seed of positive change and go to a yoga class. Start meditating. Start taking care of your mind and body.

lyndahamiltonparker
Lynda Hamilton Parker is a Scottish PR expert and independent publisher

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