By Erika Lee
“Yoga allows us to bring an expanded consciousness of loving, living, and healing to our every day activities, starting from the inside out. A rainbow of practices was developed to help us make that journey. Included in that rainbow is the knowledge that we are the healers. Taking responsibility for our own health and well-being, our bodies and minds reveal the secrets of balance, harmony, and the release of energy for healing. This decreases the need for someone else to “fix us.” We learn more about our bodies and minds than anyone else. We then consult with professionals as partners in our healing process, not fixers.” —Nischala Joy Devi
Anxiety is a state of being when one is unsure of themselves and a particular outcome. Everyone can relate to feeling anxious at certain times in their lives, such as taking a test or starting a new school and having to meet new friends. Unfortunately, chronic anxiety runs at a much deeper and more profound level for a large part of society. Rather than feeling anxious about an event, anxiety runs their lives and leaves them depleted of prana or life force.
There are an abundance of medications, therapies, and techniques to manage anxiety. These are simply band-aids, and the root issue is not being investigated. The idea is not to wrap a negative energy around the western model of medicine. The goal for all Yoga therapists is to help clients find a balance between western medicine and holistic healing.
Many children have depression or eating disorders due to their anxiety, and the age of onset is getting younger and younger. Suicide has become a real threat for kids as early as middle school. Because of this, it is more important than ever to teach kids the tools they need to cope with emotions in a better way. Wuf Shanti is a dog character that teaches kids to live a yogic lifestyle by sharing Yoga, meditation, and positive thinking with them at a young age so that those tools become an automatic response to stress as they grow-up. Learning to deal with life’s issues in a more productive way will hopefully help kids to be less depressed and anxious teens and happier adults.
The effects of living a healthy lifestyle in mind, body, and spirit, including Yoga, meditation, nutrition, positive thinking, and the ability to manage emotions, has been something doctors and therapists have started to look at more in recent years. In days past, it was thought that the mind and body were separate. However, we now know that there is, in fact, a mind-body connection. Our thoughts have the ability to make us well or make us unwell. Science has shown that Yoga, meditation, and mindfulness can assist in the healing process, and that our minds can control our bodies.
When we are “stressed” out, we tend to get sick more often, sleep too much or too little, experience stomach discomfort, chest pain, etc. Many studies have been conducted, the results of which have shown the positive effects that the proper amount of sleep, diet, meditation, Yoga, exercise, and positive thinking can have on the body and mind.
By teaching kids to make a Yoga practice a part of their daily routine, even if it is just for 5-10 minutes each day, they will lead a much healthier lifestyle, physically, mentally, and spiritually. Positive effects of a balanced yogic lifestyle include decreases in depression and anxiety, better regulation of mood and anxiety disorders, reduction of stress, increased focus, learning, and creativity, reduction of heart disease and stroke, and increased feelings of compassion and empathy.
With all of these proven benefits, why isn’t everyone meditating, doing Yoga, and eating, sleeping, and thinking well?
Erika Lee is a faculty instructor and mentor for the 200-hour Hatha Yoga training, and 200-hour Gentle Yoga training at the Soul of Yoga in California, where she earned her degree as a Yoga Therapist. She specializes her practices on helping young kids battling anxiety, depression, and eating disorders. Her journey with Wuf Shanti began when Adam’s—Wuf Shanti’s creator, who is now 13-years-old—compassion inspired her to want to help get this message out to kids everywhere and make a positive impact in the world. (photo: Erika Lee with Wuf Shanti at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital)