i've wrestled with depression for as long as i can remember. it was most painful before i was able to identify what it was, and before i developed coping skills. i've learned for me, the depression isn't just going to leave. i've been told over the years in every possible way you can think of that i could will it away if i just "saw" things differently, or thought more "positively". those of you who know depression know this is completely ludicrous. the methods suggested to me lead to something else. it's called repression. this in turn leads to anger, or perhaps a deeper depression. whatever it leads to, it most certainly brings along with it a further sense of isolation from others, because for some reason you just cannot think your way out of being depressed. if YOU can, your in luck because you don't suffer from depression.
the one thing (i'm sure there could have been others) that has cultivated lasting relief from the overbearing effects depression has had on my life, is practice. they say ashtanga yoga attracts type A personalities (those with plentiful energy, usually competitive, aggressive, etc). this isn't me. i'm the one who wakes up in the morning and thinks in a very low heavy inside tone, "ugh…no….argh, no….shit…ugh, and many more ughs". i'm certainly never jumping out of bed ready to get on that mat and kick some ass. when i began ashtanga yoga i found it difficult to commit to myself and get on the mat regularly. BUT, what i've realized over the years and here's where things start looking up, is that "i have depression", "i can't get out of bed", "i don't have a good practice", "i can't do that pose", etc are all just stories i tell myself. now that doesn't mean those things aren't absolutely true! they are. but, they have power over me only when my mind engages with them as truths. when i let the stories spin, they strengthen. the question at some point became, with these stories carrying some weight, can i - without ignoring them - rather walk straight into them and by my daily actions slowly and patiently change their strength which had a seemingly inescapable grip on me. will they ever change? and so it began, the get your feet on the floor and get in the shower method. it's a daily baptism for me. that hot water hits my back and some of the bullshit immediately washes down the drain. i can see beyond what i had 30 seconds ago perceived as my personal limitations for the day. it's not a thinking thing. to the contrary: get two feet on wood floor, stand, walk on floor towards shower, etc. the physicality of it all is the only way i've found it works for me. this body takes action and this mind follows. in other words, this body can be a vehicle used towards reorienting myself in the world, and asana is available for the same purpose if we chose to use it that way.
asana has never come easy for me. for the sake of insufficient language let's call it "a struggle". i can guide you through the elaborate (hi)stories that live in my body as to why, and you could shake your head, "yes, yes timothy. i see why things are hard for you". but then who needs more stories? and you know something…in a world with so much inexplicable suffering and violence - physical and emotional - it's an incredible gift to have any practice that challenges us, reveals our strengths, and brings our minds towards ease. a luxury. for a second let's consider the billions of cells that have to shift for us to make the simple gesture of raising our arms overhead…it's a miracle, truly! so why mention the "struggle" with asana? because the struggle is no reason to give up, no reason to stop showing up for myself and trying. that struggle, the very limitations, are the walls that keep me contained in a space that allow me to learn and to grow. when we paint, we are limited by the borders of our canvas, when we dance, by the walls around us, or exhaustion. when we pray, by language, when we are human, by mortality. the spirit however is boundless. it is that inside of us that understands limitations are only as powerful as the narratives they weave in our mind. and acknowledging that and putting it into words doesn't mean i'll spontaneously become enlightened or be able to do some advanced pose, but for now it deepens the way i love, guides me towards compassion, patience, strength, and grace. i show up every day for these things. not expecting to receive them, but rather making myself available to their unveiling, just in case. as a friend once said, "when the divine wind blows, set your sail!"