Q. Hi Kori. I ran across your bio and found it similar in ways to my life. Similar in the fact that I’ve battled depression and anxiety ever since I can remember. Was on several different meds, in and out of therapy sessions, struggled with alcohol and drugs. I know that my answer is with God, but I’m having a hard time forgiving myself and letting Him truly in my daily life. I have done a few yoga classes and enjoy stretching my muscles, but I struggle with the “inner part” of yoga (mind, release, meditation, etc…). Finally, my question to you is; how were you able to let go using yoga? Thank you for your time. God bless.

A.  Thank you for your thoughtful message. I have been contemplating my reply and here’s what I’ve come up with so far:

In terms of using yoga classes and the postures for letting go… so much of our grief, anger and sadness are stored in our bodies. We end up holding on to those emotions as tension and disease in the body. The yoga postures and breathe work can help to move that stagnant energy. Stagnant energy can not only cause illness, but it can cause us to keep recreating the same thoughts and circumstances in our lives. So often we move through our lives more through habituated reaction rather than truly present with what is. And so it goes with my journey… I feel as if the postures have really supported me opening my body, heart and mind to new ways of being instead of remaining stuck in what’s familiar and habitual.

As for the “inner  part”of yoga… this is definitely to me where the real work is. This is also sometimes the most challenging because while a teacher can guide us to look with in, we ultimately have to have the courage and self-love to actually go inward. No teacher can do this part for us. Often times teachers inspire us and make us feel good, but to actually go inward doesn’t always feel good. I know for me, going inward has not always been a happy or inspiring place. It’s often been painful, angry, and ugly. Of course, this is just the first layer, but sometimes this first layer has been enough to stop me in my tracks and just keep following the inspiration of some one else instead of staying my path. The times I have been courageous enough to stay the path, I inevitably connect with a part of myself that has never known pain nor ever needs forgiveness because some how everything is perfect and peaceful there. It is ultimately the intention of yoga to help us know, connect and live from this place. I’m not there yet, but I have more and more moments the more committed to my practice I am.

Meditation is probably one of the most challenging and profound tools I use. It is easiest to practice it when there is not a lot of emotion or turmoil swirling around, but all that practice pays off when things do hit the fan and has actually given me some space to breath amidst the chaos. I use to be frustrated by meditation when I thought it meant to sit still and not think. But that’s impossible. That act of trying not to think actually creates more thinking! Instead the technique I have come to practice is watching my thoughts and my emotions as they pass by. They inevitably change, they tend to be repetitive and rarely have anything to do with what is actually going on. As I am learning to watch my thinking rather than thinking my thoughts I feel less sentimental about them and am able to let them pass instead of holding on to them like they are all there is. For depression and anxiety I find this extremely beneficial. Our thoughts ultimately create our emotions and our emotions validate our thoughts so we think more of them. None of this has anything to do with what’s actually happening, so we just need to get some space from ourselves. That’s what meditation has helped me with.

I hope this is helpful for you. It is great if you can find a meditation teacher or meditation group in your area. It makes it so much easier to meditate if you have some help and guidance. Also, there are some great free guided meditations on itunes.com. My favorite are the series from Meditation Podcast.

Many blessings to you on your journey. I’m still finding my way through mine too. I trust that it is leading us all to more and more love.