On the 10th of November 2014, I received a phone call that would change my life in so very many different ways. It was the phone call that told me my father had passed away. My family in India had to make that call to give me the news, and I felt helpless and broken – I was thousands of miles away, grieving with shock. Losing a loved one is one of the greatest challenges anyone can face, and for me it felt even harder and more traumatic because I was so far away from everyone else who was feeling the same as me.
I went back to India, I had to see my family, to be with them at the most difficult of times. Whilst I was in India, questions about how long I would be away, and when I was going to get back to work came fast and furious. Then when I came back to the UK, and back to my job, and back to ‘normal life’, I found I had another and totally unwelcome challenge to deal with: it came from what you might think is a surprising source (only, sadly, it probably happens far more than anyone would think), it came from the HR manager at work!
The questions kept coming about why hadn’t I returned after two weeks, why wasn’t I back at my desk, back at my job? I tried to explain that grief doesn’t have a time limit, plus my mother needed as much help as possible and two weeks wasn’t enough. And of course, this wasn’t a holiday, a fortnight away for a bit of rest and relaxation; there was a lot that needed to be done on top of the broken hearts all the family were suffering from.
It became too much. It was so petty, so inhuman… I quit my job.
So now not only was I broken and grieving, full of pain, I also had no job. The stress led to insomnia and depression, which wasn’t helped by the sense of loneliness and isolation that started to build up around me.
If any of you have suffered from insomnia you will know just how all-consuming it can be. It tugs at you throughout the day, reminding you with your tiredness just how difficult – perhaps impossible – it had been to get to sleep the night before. As darkness falls it begins to tease you in other ways; you’re exhausted, and perhaps tonight you will sleep, only when you get into bed you are suddenly wide awake, remembering your lost loved one, worrying about anything and everything, big things and small.
It’s a serious problem and it can lead to so many health problems. It was so serious for me that I made an appointment to see my GP, but all I got was sleeping pills. I knew this was not what I needed. Yes, those pills might get me to sleep (as it happened, sadly, they did not – they made me even more unwell), and I stopped taking them.
This was a massively difficult time for me personally, but I had one thing that helped me make it through to the other side, to a place where I can now look back and understand what I was going through. What really helped me to heal and to start to move forward was – Yoga. My practice of Yoga became my best companion and this played a huge part in stabilising me mentally, emotionally, and physically. Being able to practice yoga meant that I had a natural medicine that helped me to heal and overcome depression, and my feelings of loneliness and isolation.
I want to explain just how yoga helped me:
Yoga allowed me to connect with myself once more. Depression makes us feel disconnected and we lose all sense of belonging, making the feelings worse.
Yoga allowed me to distance myself from my thoughts. When I was no longer attached to my thoughts, they didn’t hold so much power over me, and since I wasn’t as attached to my thoughts, they didn’t hold as much sway. Eventually, I was able to recognize and even discredit the negative patterns more swiftly, eliminating the pull of negative emotions that led to depressed states.
Yoga helped me to relax in both body and mind, giving me the chance to finally sleep well.
Yoga made me feel powerful. When I was depressed, I felt stripped of all personal power. The more I practised yoga, the more accomplished and empowered I felt.
5. I connected to my better self
When I was dealing with depression, it became part of my identity. Through yoga, I was able to
identify with a deeper part of myself: my spirit, soul, or higher self. Once the depression wasn’t
me, then there was nothing inherently wrong with me, and my tendency towards depression
was something that I could improve, like a posture. Like tight hamstrings, it was eventually
going to change.
I learned to be more compassionate not only to others but to myself as well. Through yoga I was able to learn to be softer, kinder, and more loving to everyone (including, and perhaps especially, myself).
I never imagined I would be able to live my life again with happiness, love, and contentment. Yoga has served as my primary tool for self-awareness and self-healing, and I hope that by sharing my story many others will come to the practice so it can work its magic on them too.
I want to spread this message of hope and compassion through Yoga & Mindfulness practices, through outreach activities, and through social inclusion for all people without discrimination to race, age, class, disability, religion or gender. I believe that a single action can make a difference in the community, and that collective action can greatly impact the world.
The Loneliness Epidemic
Millions of people are lonely. In this interconnected society we live in, it seems impossible that this is the truth, but over nine million people in the UK either often or always feel lonely according to a 2017 report published by the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness. As the report states; “For far too many people, loneliness is the sad reality of modern life.”
A new body of research now reveals that feeling chronically lonely is one of the cases of heart disease, dementia, depression, and a host of other serious illnesses. Governments have even declared loneliness and isolation to be a threat to social service, and the UK has gone as far as to create a Minister for Loneliness.
In the next five years, loneliness will become a deadly health risk.
“We want to confront this challenge starting with our own community and for all of us to take action to address the loneliness endured by the young, by the elderly, by carers, by those who have lost loved ones, refugees who have lost their homes and families – people who have no one to talk, to or share their thoughts and experiences with.”
We want to offer hope in our community. When people are feeling lonely, depressed, sad, or broken they reach for pills, drugs, or drink to eliminate their feelings of loneliness and frustration if they have no alternatives available. We want to make yoga and mindfulness accessible to those who might not otherwise have ready access to these practices due to finances, physical ability, social anxiety, or anything else.
Help us to develop Yoga for Active Hope to address the loneliness so rampant in our society. We have achieved half of our target funding with the support from our local council, but we still need to raise the additional 50 percent to get started in making yoga and mindfulness classes available to all.
We will be forever grateful if you can help us in any way, no matter how big or small your contribution may be. Whatever you can give will contribute to a better tomorrow, today.
You can pave the way to change many lives. You can turn fear into hope. You can turn lives at stake into lives saved.
Thank you for your faith in our dream; let’s make a difference together!
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