My name is Sarah. These days you can usually find me reading books, sipping on coffee or tea, going on walks, adventuring in nature (preferably the mountains), doing yoga (is anyone surprised?), or finding new ways to create and to play.
I’m a coffee-chugging, yellow-loving, always-humming twenty-something. Sounds light and free and happy-go-lucky—all things I’d love to embody—but reality is that a lot of my life I spent chasing darkness, dwelling in sin, letting fear creep in, and surrendering to depression.
A lot of people ask what I did to get to the place where I am today. They want to know what they can do to finally find freedom, too. My answer is pretty simple and non-influential: I don’t know. It certainly wasn’t my doing. I tried my own attempts at improving, but I learned that it’s really all about pursuing the Lord. I thought I had to fix myself, but He showed me that all I had to fix was my eyes on Him.
Some people experience the weight of anxiety and depression for a couple of weeks and others experience it for their entire lives. I don’t have a clear explanation for that. And I don’t think it is a matter of how “faithful” or “faithless” we are. We can’t earn freedom with a few more prayers, and we certainly shouldn’t say that if we really followed Him then we wouldn’t have this burden. I don’t think that’s how it works. In fact, some of the wisest and most spiritually mature people I know fight the battle of mental illness on a daily basis.
I don’t know why some people can “pull themselves out of it” and others can’t, but I know that I certainly couldn’t. I felt the weight of it for five years, and I never thought I would get to walk in the light again. I followed the Lord the entirety of that time and wrestled through the confusion of why I was walking in darkness even though I felt like I was following the Light. I battled with God because I knew He was bigger than my anxiety and depression and had the ability to instill peace and energy and joy, but He wasn’t. And I couldn’t. I had given up on myself, but God never gave up on me.
I don’t have the answers to depression and anxiety. I don’t know why (in a lot of ways) things turned around for me. But I do know what The Lord used for my healing. And I can condense it all down to one word: Yoga.
Perfectionism has always been a part of my life. Growing up, I would make up dance routines and practice them over and over again until they were “presentable.” I found comfort in organizing my toys or even the drawers of pens and pencils in the kitchen. I would draw and then erase and then re-draw and erase on every piece of artwork. It could always be better. I can always be better. While there is truth to this, the Lord has been teaching me to overflow grace toward myself. Yoga has been an incredible tool through this learning process because it is all about embracing where your body is today. Sure, you may have been able to bend in half yesterday, but today your knees are screaming. Listen to what your body is telling you, and be gracious. Where your body is today is enough. And the beauty is, regardless of if you are in the “full expression” of a posture or if you are customizing to where your body is today, you still reap the same benefits of the pose. Even if I’m not where I want to be, it is still good.
The postures promote benefits to your physical health. Yoga has been proven to assist in cardio health, balancing your metabolism, increasing strength and flexibility, soothing pain, lowering blood pressure, releasing tension, supporting digestion...the list goes on. Of course, the more you practice, the more benefits you will see over time. In other words, you reap what you sow ;)
One of the wonderful benefits of practicing yoga is better sleep. And this was a game-changer for me because I was having some major sleep issues and lack of sleep is a trigger that sends me spiraling, so enhancing my rest time was critical.
I don’t know if you have ever been to a yoga class and found yourself weeping on your mat, but it’s a thing. At first it didn’t make sense to me how some postures and breathing could become something so emotional, but now I can’t imagine yoga apart from emotional well-being. Yoga is inherently vulnerable, and the postures bring attention to places in our body where we are storing emotional trauma and baggage. Our bodies always remember where we’ve been and what we are holding onto. We carry it around, and yoga brings it to our attention. So if yoga makes you emotional, you’re not alone. Embrace it. Our bodies (and God) are merciful to bring these places of pain to our attention so that we can be set free.
Yoga without breathing isn’t yoga. Breath is at the heart of it. And although we breathe instinctively, I didn’t really know how to breathe until going through my yoga certification process. Learning how to focus on breath and practicing deep breathing techniques was vital to learning how to ease my relentless anxiety.
Yoga is meditative. When you are focused on breath work and postures, you are called to the present moment. It is hard to worry about everything you have to do when you have to focus on what your body is doing. When weaving scripture into it, your mind is able to focus on His truth. It is a holy time—a time where you are fully present to pray and to praise. And although I think yoga has an abundance of health benefits on its own (and I have seen those and love that about yoga), I wholeheartedly believe that what changed my life wasn’t the yoga but the time of being fully present to be with the Lord. It was learning to rest in Him even when my heart was beating unrealistically fast. It was praising Him even while I was sitting in the middle of my mess. He is where the peace is, and He is where the joy is.
Maybe you have walked a similar path as me, or maybe you are walking through something entirely different. Regardless, I know yoga has benefits for anyone and everyone—all shapes and sizes and athletic abilities—and I know, without a doubt, the Lord desperately wants to be with you—all of you, all the time.
Learning yoga is good and fun, but learning to seek Him and His truth is invaluable.
I hope you’ll join me on this journey.
Let’s grow together.