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Student of the Month: Jill

Since moving to the lower mainland over 13 years ago I became seasonally defective. At first I had mild symptoms of the winter blues which progressively worsened to severe Seasonal Affective Disorder. For anyone unfamiliar with SAD, the symptoms are much the same as depression. The worst symptoms for me were extreme fatigue, unbearable sadness, anxiety and almost overwhelming and scary thoughts of suicide. Every year I faithfully sat under my ‘sun’ light, have lots of vitamin D and exercise but it wasn’t enough and I did not want to resort to pharmaceuticals if I didn’t have to. Last winter was so bad that I spent this entire summer worrying about what was to come this winter and resigned myself to the fact that this year I would have go on anti-depressants. And then I learned from a reliable scientific source that yoga was proven in several studies to ease symptoms of depression. I’d never been very interested in yoga but I was at the point that I’d try anything to see if it would help. After searching for different yoga studios online I decided to try Bikram because the poses would always be the same so there’d be no surprises each class, it was close to home and I was intrigued by the heat. I took my first class at the beginning of July 2010 and committed to taking at least 3 classes a week. I know it’s different for everyone but it took me three months to find peace in the heat. I felt panicky, uncomfortable, angry, self-pity, jealous of those who seemed so calm. I still have classes like that, actually. I kept coming back because I loved the poses and my body and back felt so good when it was all over. I also noticed my posture improved and didn’t have as many aches and pains but I was still skeptical that it would help me mentally. My doctor had advised me to start anti-depressants in September, before the symptoms began, but I chose against it. This is when I noticed I was much calmer in class. I could finally use my breath to pass through any heat challenges. I felt more confident in each pose and didn’t chide myself for not getting it ‘right’, just accepted what I could do that day. I feel that conscientious breathing has been the most beneficial lesson. I usually begin to feel the onset of SAD in October and get smacked upside the head with it when the time changes. This year I’ve had minimal symptoms. I’ve noticed - almost as an afterthought - the things that used to trigger emotional upheavals (and really bad days for my husband) just didn’t really matter. I feel much calmer inside myself. Whenever I started to feel overwhelmed I could take myself into the moment rather than worrying about the whole. I feel more energized and rarely need an afternoon nap, not every day as previous years. I actually catch myself feeling happy. The only change I made in my life was adding Bikram yoga three days a week and since last December I’ve strived for four. My husband and I believe it has been instrumental in improving my state of mind. My favorite pose is Half Tortoise Pose. The first time I had Stephanie as a teacher she had mentioned that this pose was beneficial for people with depression. No one had said that before about any pose so really started concentrating on doing it as best as possible.

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