"Your" Yoga and Mental Health

Co-Authored by: Liz Jendra and Paige Griffith

About 7 months ago, we started this project of listening to our fellow yogis' stories about their journey to yoga. We asked those that we have practiced with and learned from, to sit in front of a camera, and answer the question of what yoga meant to them. Before this project began, we knew we would get an array of answers, mostly discussing the idea that yoga is so much more than just the physical practice (See our previous blog). We each have our own individual stories about what yoga has meant to us, but as we began micing up each person, we never imagined the layers of answers we would receive. We never envisioned the amount of our fellow yogis, who have used these practices to support more than just their bodies, but their overall wellbeing. And with that, we began to realize the stories surrounding mental health were important to tell.

There is no specific right way to talk about mental health. We know that this is beyond sensitive for so many. It’s complex and sometimes impossible to truly wrap our heads around. We know people are hurting and struggling in silence. Even though it seems impossible, we must talk, we must tell our truths, share knowledge, and hold space for those that need it.

Maybe, the answer to the seemingly impossible is talking about it more. As we sit here in this coffee shop rattling our brains on how to approach this blog, looking at painful statistics, going on tangents filled with big feelings, tears, and passionate statements- we pause.

We know that sometimes reading through a list of statistics can feel mundane or impersonal at times. However, as we looked at each other, reacting to these statistics with our own emotions, we felt they were important to share. We invite you to take your time, reading through these, as you remember each of these numbers equals a human being. We offer a trigger warning for you prior to reading as some of these numbers may bring up painful emotions.

The National Institute of Mental Health states that nearly 1 in 5 adults lives with a mental illness in the United States. That is over 51 million individuals…

Take a breath here.

In the United States, there is one death by suicide every 12 minutes. One person, every 12 minutes, suffering from an invisible illness, no longer able to bear the unbearable feelings within them.

Inhale. Exhale.

The overall suicide rate has increased 35% since 1999 (National Alliance of Mental Illness).

The number of youths that are experiencing severe major depression has increased 0.5% since last year.

And yet, it’s reported that 60% of youth with major depression and 23.6% of adults with a mental illness report they did not receive any mental health treatment in 2017-2018. (Mental Health America)

We pause for the human beings who suffer from mental illness. We invite you to do the same, take a breath in… and out.

The prevalence of mental health in our society confirms our belief that telling the stories of our fellow yogis, who have used yoga and meditation as support to their own mental health, is important. We live in a society of stuffing and numbing big emotions. We grin and bear it. We fake it until we make it. We’ve become a culture of putting a smile on our face and telling ourselves we are “fine”. Our difficult emotions and personal struggles become inhabitants inside our bodies and minds.