Viviane Khounlavong: Yoga, meditation help to cope with mental health

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 28, 2022

Our society may have become increasingly open and comfortable with the mental health discussion, but there still exists a stigma regarding actually coping with anxiety and depression.

It is a very healthy first step to admit and accept your emotional triggers but it’s another step to learn how you need to cope. If we cannot cope, we tend to choose easy fixes that often lead to negative addictions i.e. drugs, alcohol, overeating, etc.

Coping isn’t easy at all. It’s hard, it’s painful, but you have to learn more about the darker side of yourself in order to truly understand your light.

Email newsletter signup

We all suffer. We all go through life changes and cycles that are beyond our control. Without suffering, there is no happiness.

Two months ago, when I lost my dad to a sudden illness, I thought I was going to lose my mind. I thought I had zero control of my life anymore because something so powerful and uncontrollable as death took away my biggest role model and supporter.

I can openly admit I started back down a path of overeating, neglecting my yoga practice and consuming too much alcohol, similar to, if not more, than when I went through my divorce.

One part of me, perhaps the darker side, the side that thinks it’s easier to linger in hopelessness, said, “It’s ok. you’re going through a lot right now. It’s acceptable.”

But another part of me knew I was just making excuses for myself. I believe that most of the time we always know, but we go through lapses in judgment and devalue ourselves to hide from our suffering. Instead, we need to value ourselves enough to know we can overcome our suffering.

Coping is controlling what you can and letting go of what you cannot. We cannot control the loss of a loved one. We cannot control how others treat us. We can control how we treat ourselves mentally. We can control how we treat our own body.

There are several ways you can cope through positive actions. For me, going back to my yoga practice, stopping the negative self-talk, monitoring what I put into my body and simply getting back to a healthy lifestyle helps me feel grounded.

Switch a negative reaction with a positive reaction; a negative addiction with a positive addiction. Get addicted to nurturing yourself.

How does yoga help? Yoga teaches us to be mindful of every breath we take. I like to remind myself that every inhale and every exhale I take is a gift.

The American Osteopathic Association states that “Yoga’s incorporation of meditation and breathing can help improve a person’s mental well-being. Regular yoga practice creates mental clarity and calmness; increases body awareness; relieves chronic stress patterns; relaxes the mind; centers attention; and sharpens concentration.”

Yoga teaches us to find harmony between our emotional and physical body. Yes, with a regular practice you can build strength, lose weight, increase flexibility, improve energy levels and protect your body from injury.

More importantly, though, it can help you reduce stress, learn to control your reactions and help you to develop positive coping skills by finding a more positive outlook on your life.

No, yoga is not handstands and pretzel-like twist and bends. Anyone can start a yoga practice by simply breathing.

Try digging your heels into the earth, closing your eyes, allowing your shoulders to relax and simply allowing yourself to feel every inhale and exhale.

Remind yourself that you are a gift.

You were created perfectly.

Your journey does not stop with your suffering.

Every day is a new beginning. Make it a good one.

Namaste. The light in me honors the light in you.

Viviane Khounlavong is a personal trainer, health coach and yoga instructor working in Lawrence County.