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Amy Weintraub Book Excerpts

Yoga for Depression:
A Compassionate Guide to Relieve Suffering Through Yoga

By Amy Weintraub ©2004, published by Broadway Books

Here in the West, we are accustomed to thinking of mental health from the perspective of illness—how best to understand and treat our symptoms. But we practice yoga as preventative and positive medicine. Just as the immune system is strengthened against the common cold and other viruses with daily practice, the emotional body is strengthened as well. The highs, the lows, the extremes of all the emotions are brought into balance by the physical practice, and the mind is soothed by the philosophy. In every stage of yoga, you will find relief from obsessive negative thinking. When you are first learning a pose and moving into it, you cannot possibly obsess about what you should have said in the meeting this morning. To learn the pose, your mind must focus on the details of alignment. Later, when you’re in the pose and you allow your mind to become absorbed in the sensations of your body, you are very far from your everyday troubles.
(pp. 9–10)

In every stage [of Kripalu Yoga], the emphasis is on developing a sense of "Witness Consciousness," watching, with ever-growing self-awareness and equanimity, the sensations in the physical body and the thoughts and feelings that rise in the mind. As Witness Consciousness grows, you begin to accept yourself as you are and make peace with reality as it is.

It was this self-accepting attitude that I encountered when I first walked through the doors of Kripalu Center in 1989. And it is this self-accepting attitude that has kept me practicing through personal loss, my bout with breast cancer, and mistakes I’ve made along the way. It is that self-accepting attitude that I believe was the foundation of my recovery from depression, and it is what strengthens my capacity to move through adversity. Every time I step onto my yoga mat, it is a gesture of self-acceptance, a gesture of loving myself just as I am, with whatever stiffness or discomfort I show up with that day. Every time I step onto my mat, I am honoring my body, just as it is, as though it were a temple of the divine. And it is. Because when I practice and the tensions in my body begin to melt away and the clinging thoughts begin to dissolve, I am left with the knowledge of who I really am. I am aware of my own divinity and the divinity of all beings, and in this awareness, I no longer feel separate and alone.
(pp. 110–111)