Why My Mental Health Days Always Include Yoga

The straw had been laid to the camel’s back, and that back was broken. The emails kept rolling in, alerts had my cell phone vibrating back-to-back and the to-do list was growing. Finally, I threw up my hands. The stressed feeling was familiar and there was no way to alleviate it while remaining in the situation causing it. Finally, I told myself: “I’m taking a mental health day.”

Since I was a teenager, mental health days have been essential to establishing a balance between the go-go mentality and just taking a day off to do nothing. All my sister and I had to do was simply ask and, if the wind was blowing the right way (and we’d been keeping up with other duties), my mom would nod and the PJs would stay on. Mental health days mostly consisted of watching junk daytime TV and eating three sandwiches in one sitting. Now, my mental health days are dedicated to yoga.

When I was at my most down, I was on the mat about five days a week. I’d come into the studio with my shoulders up to my ears, breathing shallowly. Each class left me exhilarated and exhausted, sweating through every pore in my body – I’d seen drops materialize on my shin in front of my eyes – and working muscles that hadn’t been used in hours. Yoga became a place where I could disconnect from all requests, notifications and expectations except my own. The same feeling from earlier iterations of mental health days mainfested itself as a reaction to my practice.

September is National Yoga Month, which means so much more to me as I go through teacher training. I write this post because yoga matters so much to me and as part of the #YogaMatters blogging contest put on by the Master of Public Health program at George Washington University. I couldn’t imagine going through life as a super-stressed, unhappy person, and yoga helped me find my center. This is not to say that I don’t still get stressed; I’m human. Yoga helps me find coping mechanisms so the stress doesn’t take over my life. Deep breathing, inversions, meditation, silence, creating intentions for my behavior – all of these form my practice. Practice is the right word because yoga is never perfected. Yoga is an ongoing journey that depends on my mental and physical well-being, and that changes from day to day.

Check out the #YogaMatters contest, and write about how yoga has affected your health.



Sponsored by MPH@GW Public Health

4 Replies to “Why My Mental Health Days Always Include Yoga”

  1. Thanks for sharing this, Veleisa. It’s wrong to think that the more we push, the more activities we take on, the more productive we’ll be. That does not work well. We need to schedule mental health days for renewal and resilience.

    1. Definitely! And we need to teach our kids that mindful rest is not laziness but necessary. Do you practice yoga? If not, I invite you to join me for a class at a Sunstone studio!

  2. Good afternoon, Veleisa,

    I do not practice yoga, but I am becoming much more aware of how it benefits individuals and I just may take you up on your offer sometime…

    Gardening does wonders for me. I work out of a home office, so it’s nice to take 5 to 10-minute breaks throughout the day to go outside and look at that beauty. Beyond that, gardening teaches me:

    The value of envisioning – in detail – a desired outcome. I need to first think of what plants or trees are needed. After that, I need to think about the proper arrangement and spacing among those trees or plants. Folks who neglect to do that end up having to cut down or tear out things later.

    The value of delayed gratification. I’m always amazed how a tiny seed can grow into something large and beautiful if I’m just willing to be patient.

    The value of regular nurturing. Plants and trees require watering, pruning and weeding to thrive. Our careers, relationships and lives in general require regular nurturing, too.

    Anyway, let’s be intentional about having mental health days!

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