Medical evidence suggests that exercise may be an often-neglected intervention in mental health care. Lightweight workouts like yoga, swimming, cycling, walking, gardening and dancing have been proven to reduce anxiety and depression as it increases blood circulation to the brain and a physiologic reactivity to stress.
By Rawan Hesham
30 minutes, 3 days a week
That’s right. That’s all it takes to maintain a relatively active body and mind. We’re especially invested in yoga as its different forms and types fit diverse lifestyles and needs. From decompressing, meditative Ananda to self divinity-connecting Anusara, to the highly-charged Ashtanga.
LOOQAL sought out yoga practitioner and instructor, Eunice Seet (@eunwithyoga) for her take on yoga, and how it has contributed to her personal physical and mental wellness.
How has yoga helped with your physical and mental wellness journey?
I have a tendency to keep replaying past traumas in my mind and that makes me anxious about what may happen next. I can pass my days in a constant state of worry, so much so that even good things happening around me escape me.
Practising yoga has taught me to be mindful of the breath in each pose, listening to the full rounds of inhales and exhales as I move through the asanas (postures). It helps to still the mind and redirect your thoughts back to yourself. To acknowledge that we are loved, we are enough and we are whole.
Why else would we hold poses in yoga for so long? It is in these spaces that we get to tune in to what is really going on in our minds. Sometimes anger, frustration, insecurity, fear and other emotion triggers surface during my practice, and I take that as a call and an opportunity to look deeper within my mind and my heart for the root cause.
It hasn’t been easy for me, and everyone else I’m sure, to cope with the pandemic, seeing so many facets of our lives change and get affected on an atomic level. With so much distressing news on politics, public health and crashing economies, I find it more pivotal than ever to go to my mat. When I step onto my mat, it’s an invitation to reset my mind, body, heart and soul.
There are some days where I just sit to breathe, affirm and meditate and some days where I flow to move my body. Practicing yoga has helped me improve my mood, alleviate stress, tone my body and help me discover who I am as a person.
For sure, physical health cannot be separated from mental health. They are a lot more connected than you may think and yoga is one of the ways for us to tap into that connectedness. With understanding and continued practice, I have definitely emerged stronger, mentally and physically.
What does your daily routine look like?
I start my day with a gua sha, a stone facial massage, while listening to podcasts! I’m currently listening to Jay Shetty. Then I’ll wash up and make myself a big mug of matcha before heading to my mat to do some breathing meditation or affirmations. Nadi shodhanam is particularly my favourite breathing technique; it’s the alternate nostril breathing that helps to clear, balance and synchronise the energetic channels in our left and right brain. After that, I’ll do some free writing in my journal.
Depending on the day, I would either practice yoga in the morning or evening. My practices always include sun A and B salutations. Some days, I would move and flow to whatever feels good to my body, some days I would attend a class at a local studio and other days, I may follow along with a session on YouTube!
How did yoga impact your lifestyle and views?
One of the biggest changes I’ve gone through is to accord myself compassion. With daily practice I’ve gotten better at listening to my mind and my body. I am more aware of changing stress levels, emotional triggers and what cause them and potential mental burnout. Knowing it means I can deal with them methodically and calmly. It has also driven me to be more resilient and I show others empathy. I now know that when I treat myself with compassion, I am better able to show compassion and love to others around me.
Who would you recommend yoga to?
Everyone. There are so many forms of yoga like vinyasa, ashtanga, bikram, etc. and so many types like chair yoga, yoga for the elderly, prenatal or postnatal yoga, kids’ yoga, yoga sculpt, booty yoga and many more. Yoga is easily accessible these days, online. It is about identifying the style that best suits you.
How do we get started, as yoga can seem quite intimidating?
That’s understandable. I used to think that yoga was a Buddhist or Hindu practice and coming from a conservative Christian background, I wasn’t ready to explore. However, I had the chance to speak with a couple of experienced yogis and they helped dispel those myths and any doubts that I had. Although the practice of yoga itself is sacred, it does not adhere to nor promote a specific religion. Everyone is free to practice yoga regardless of ethnicity and religious beliefs. It serves only as a tool to help you connect with what you believe and find true on a deeper level.
I also did not think yoga was suitable for me as I was not ‘flexible nor calm enough’. So I kept putting it off, waiting for the time when I’d be ready. We have a tendency to wait for the perfect time, the perfect yoga outfit, the perfect mat, thinking that in order to start and do well, we need to start with a perfect state.
Friends, if you’re waiting for a sign or permission to start, this message here is your sign- “Show up imperfectly and do your best.” Start off easy, go with a friend and give yourself grace to build on from there.
If you’re struggling, don’t try to walk the mile alone because you’re not alone. Connect with friends whom you feel safe with and express how you’re feeling.
Why did you choose to teach yoga? What are your aspirations?
I chose to teach because I wanted to share this experience of connection and integration with others. Apart from continuing my education with yoga, I hope to spread awareness and connect more people to its practices.
I am currently completing my kids yoga certification, so I’d like to be doing that in the near future. I also teach yoga sculpt and I go live on Instagram every Friday at 6pm with HIIT infused with yoga. It’s different from the normal styles but I have loads of fun teaching this class!
Any tips for people who are struggling mentally, especially during the pandemic?
If you’re struggling, don’t try to walk the mile alone because you’re not alone. I strongly urge you to connect with friends whom you feel safe with, and to express how you’re feeling. Sign up for virtual exercise classes with a buddy who will encourage and push you to be accountable for your own body.
Moving, and exercise, can help improve your mood. It does not need to be a yoga class nor do you need to jump right into a 30 min HIIT class. Any virtual classes that get you out of bed, up and about and moving, is good enough.
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Editor: This month we are excited to officially kick off LOOQAL’s programme of featuring multi-hyphenate women as our models! Holding true to our vision of nurturing a society that is empowered, confident, conscious and empathetic, we pay tribute to these women who choose to empower themselves and positively impact their circles of influence.
Eunice lends her innate sense of style and joie de vivre to our fashion story on mood-lifting colours, Bright, bold and beautiful.
Want to know more about how exercise improves mental health? Check out these articles:
The mental health benefits of exercise