Even Yoga Teachers Get the Blues

Via Bernadette Birney
on Jul 26, 2011
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It is a not-so-secret part of my history that as a young(er) person, I suffered from depression.  And when I say depression, I am talking about the kind of incapacitating despair that made brushing my hair, or my teeth, seem pointless.

Not feeling inclined to brush my teeth was the least of it, actually.  I did stupid things.  I am fortunate to have survived.  It took a lot of support, a lot of therapy, a lot of time, a lot of drugs, and ultimately a lot of practice–a whole lot of practice–to rewire some seriously self-destructive tendencies.  It could have gone the other way.

It was a long time ago.

Yet, as a teacher, I still draw from that dark time.  As a teacher, the darkest parts of my history are my asset.  I get people who struggle with their darkness because I have struggled with my own darkness. I have hard won wisdom to offer.

This month has been a tough month.  I am more busy than is comfortable, pushing harder than ever before.  People expect things from me.  Just between you and me, high expectations freak me the fuck out.  Also, I’m dealing with some heavy stuff, like figuring out where I’m going to live.  As if that’s not enough, there’s been a major deadline hanging overhead.

Then, too, there’s been the heatwave that’s kept me out of the woods I normally run in, and a nasty injury that kills every time I bend my elbow–making asana practice painful.  Add the frenzied pace and the heavy crap to less movement than I am accustomed to, and the result is alarmingly but predictably blue.

A fistful of days without the structure I depend on sure can do one hell of a number on me.

And yet…

My practice has toughened me up.  I know what to do. Slow down without lying down.  Move–every day.  Go outdoors the minute I wake up.  Stand in the clearing in the woods just outside my back door.  Breathe in the morning.  Go outside every night.  Tilt back my head.  Take in the dark sky, and the moon.  Eat things that are alive.  No sugar.  Breathe.  Practice.  Practice.  Practice.

Old patterns are opportunistic.  They can still creep back in when my defenses are down.  I am not immune.  The difference is that now I have tools.  The difference is that I trust myself to use them.

I can stand in the dark while still refusing to be overcome by darkness.  I can stand in the dark while still choosing hope with every ounce of my being.

My practice has provided me with an inner compass.  I trust that I will find my way.  I am fall-on-my-knees grateful because I know that, while I may yet visit dark places, I won’t linger in them any longer than is absolutely necessary.

Read more of Bernadette’s articles here.


About Bernadette Birney

Bernadette Birney is a dyed-in-the-wool, freedom-loving tantrika. When she’s not busy conquering the world, taking hostages, feverishly freelancing, working on her book, and posting on-line essays, you can find her practicing the art of life-on-purpose, and teaching in Connecticut. / Bernadette has had the good fortune of studying with the great ones: she’s a certified Anusara yoga instructor, and has long pestered her Rajanaka Yoga mentor, Douglas Brooks. Known for her poetic and precise articulation, she insists that you can maintain a hard-core yoga practice and a sense of humor, too. Her classes, immersions and trainings are steeped in a life affirming philosophy that will invite you into the exploration of your own potential. / Bernadette was one of the earliest Certified Anusara yoga instructors in CT, and continues to mentor the local teaching community, leading trainings and retreats. She has contributed to Yoga Journal, Fit Yoga, Elephant Journal and Srividyalaya Amrta. She is also a Lululemon ambassador, and the author of the quirky, award-winning blog berniebirney.com .


7 Responses to “Even Yoga Teachers Get the Blues”

  1. yoginibunny says:

    Thank you for sharing Bernie. It's so nice to know that there are other yoga teachers who breath their way to ease the depression. To be mindful of one's depression is to acknowledge it, accept without judging, and use the practice to slowly heal ourselves.

  2. tanya lee markul says:

    Thanks for this Bernie!!

    Posting to Elephant Yoga on Facebook and Twitter.

    Tanya Lee Markul, Assoc. Yoga Editor
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  3. bernieb says:

    My pleasure, yoginibunny. Yeah, being a yoga teacher doesn't mean never having a dark day but we've got really great tools for dealing. xo

  4. bernieb says:

    Yeah, there's nothing like feeling pressured to be cheery to make a person feel bad about feeling bad, huh? XO

  5. Beautiful Bernie. Your story really resonates with my own journeys with depression and yoga: http://theawakenedlife.wordpress.com/2011/05/11/t

    I especially resonated with this paragraph:

    "Old patterns are opportunistic. They can still creep back in when my defenses are down. I am not immune. The difference is that now I have tools. The difference is that I trust myself to use them."

    I feel the exact same way.. in fact I find myself in the midst of a week when my defenses are down and the old patterns have snuck back in… and you are reminding me that I have the tools to bring myself out of it. Thanks for the much needed reminder!

  6. tanya lee markul says:

    Just posted to "Featured Today" on the Elephant Yoga homepage.

  7. tanya lee markul says:

    Just posted to "Popular Lately" on the Elephant Yoga homepage.