I do yoga for freedom. I have such a deep love for yoga because of the freedom it provides me. It is a freedom from my mind and body, and every external thing in my life. I often confuse the terms escape and freedom, as yoga is also an escape for me. But there is a pure freedom that yoga provides me.  Stress, anxiety, and depression is a huge part of the yoga community, and it is a large part of what drew me to yoga.  Being able to find freedom during some dark, heavy, overwhelming times of my life have kept my passion for yoga strong.

I have struggled with stress, anxiety, and depression for a good part of my life. The stress seems constant, coming from all angles. I stress about the food I need to cook, what time I need to wake up, how much I need to get done for work, and the list goes on and on.  As this stress builds and builds and when I can no longer cope I can feel anxiety creep in.  By now, the anxiety is something I co-exist with; at least it seems like.  I am in an anxious state about leaving the house, driving my car, interacting with new people. The anxiety causes me mental aches, but also physical aches.  I get terrible stomach aches from trying to resist the things I do not like. I get headaches from the worry, it is like my head is so heavy and foggy. Where the stress and anxiety feel almost constant for me, depression comes and goes. It can last for a few months, or a few days. I feel sluggish, moody, agitated. I find it difficult to interact with anyone, let alone do anything. Stress, anxiety, and depression is currently present in my life, and although that may be a little scary, I find yoga.

When I practice yoga, no matter the type of yoga, I find this ease and freedom to my mind and body. During a vinyasa class I move with the music. I tune into how my body wants to move. Somedays it is slow and gentle, other days it is upbeat. I start to feel this connection to my higher self. I am not tied down by the heaviness of stress, anxiety, or depression. As I connect to my breath, my thoughts start to slow down. This wave of calm washes over me and I am present in the moment. Through the practice of somatics, I have experienced a freedom of emotions locked inside my body. We all hold emotions different and for me I hold a lot in my torso. As I was practicing a gentle twist with a somatic intention, I started to release these locks I placed all over my body. Little by little of releasing the locks I felt this deep breath filled with relief. In that moment I felt pure joy. I let go of a heavy feeling, that was held onto for so long. The wear and tear on not only my physical body, but emotional body was eased. It felt like a high, a freedom so inviting. In that moment, I was free of stress, anxiety, and depression.

As I continue my yoga practice, these moments I experience of freedom become more and more frequent. The stress, anxiety, or depression seem to stay at bay a little longer. And I continue to practice yoga through the freedom. Yoga and freedom go hand and hand. I enjoy my yoga practice that much more when I am feeling free. I don’t think of using it as an escape, I use it as an expression of my freedom. Instead of the heavy, foggy, mess; I see the light, clear, beautifulness of life.  I recognize that stress, anxiety, and depression will come and go, but I choose to keep moving towards freedom by using yoga. The ebb and flow of life happens, and recognizing how we hold, sense, and live with everyday emotions will allow us to release the lockdowns over our hearts.

** Allie Dittmer is currently enrolled in Yoga North’s +350/500 Hour/Level I Yoga Therapy Training **