Life After Therapy Ends
The Sun sinks deeper into indigo skies, turning to a vast darkness that comes earlier and earlier each day. Twilight has come and gone, night has settled in, and another weekday has come to an end. I light a candle, the chai-scented one marked Strength, roll out my yoga mat on my bedroom floor and breathe deeply, relishing the satisfying feeling of air filling my chest and lungs.
I don’t know a thing about yoga but I’m damn well trying.
My mind runs 150 miles an hour, as I feel my thoughts wrestle with one another to the brink of what must be an internal implosion.
I follow the body’s prompts and finally hear what it’s been crying out all day. I twist and turn and stretch and breathe not into contorted poses, but into the gentle movements, the body guides me to.
With the body settled and happily stretched out, my mind settles too. Suddenly I notice I can hear myself think. And what was loud and downright deafening has made its way to the forefront of my mind, patiently waiting to be heard and sifted through as my subconscious does its magic to problem-solve the issue at hand.
My eyes close, as I pull in a deep breath and let it out.
There comes a time when therapy ends. Presumably, we are now better equipped to face the challenges our mental health may present as we continue to live our lives to our fullest potential. It’s been nearly two years since my last therapy session, and I’m still learning how to face myself. The words of my therapist echo in my mind: healing is not always a linear process and it’s essential to be aware of this. This can be – and likely will be – a journey with many ups and lots of downs.
Therapy provides an opportunity to curate a toolbox of skills that allows us to better cope with our feelings. During cycles of depression, anxiety, stress, and navigating our emotions, we are able to pull out tools from our toolbox and utilize them to great effect.
It was just after my last therapy session ended that the ways of Raja Yoga introduced me to a healthier way of managing my mind and thoughts. Meditation and mindfulness go hand in hand for better mental health, healthy minds, and happier lives, and it felt like the natural next step for me after experiencing significant growth in CBT.
An Ancient Tool with Modern Relevance
According to Hindu teachings, meditation is a practice that helps individuals quiet their minds and access their innate Divine nature.
The practice of meditation shifts the focus of your attention inwards and away from external distractions, thereby initiating the healing process. This inner focus can slow down the electrical activity of the brain, lower the metabolism, reduce muscular tension, and decrease heart and breathing rates. This results in a sense of relaxation and tranquillity, which has been shown to improve overall well-being, including a boost to the immune system response.
It's proven to be highly effective in reducing anxiety and tension in the mind and body, making it a powerful method for healing and self-care.
Rāja yoga is considered one of the four main branches of yoga, the others being Jnana (knowledge), Bhakti (devotion), and Karma (action). Each of these paths aims to lead to spiritual liberation and self-realization. Rāja yoga focuses on the control of the mind and body through meditation and energy control. It encompasses teachings from all other forms of yoga and is considered the foundation from which Hatha and modern Asana practices developed.
According to Rāja yoga, the greatest hindrance to self-realization is the mind’s constant internal chatter. More specifically, the ego, desire, attachment, and the belief in a separate “self” are the barriers that lead to suffering.
In the Western world, the practice of meditation has quietly made its way mainstream. No longer subjected to scrutiny or skepticism, backed by science-based evidence, mindfulness meditation is heralded as the next step in a transition from therapy sessions to building a practice of resilience.
South Asian personalities like the infamous Deepak Chopra and charming Jay Shetty aren’t the only prominent figures introducing the masses to the wonders of mental wellness and expansion of the mind. The Headspace phenomenon made meditation a $250 million dollar business. Today, with over 40 million users, the app has even expanded into a wellness series on Netflix. In Toronto, Director X created Operation Prefrontal Cortex, a guided meditation series designed with the intent to help eradicate gun violence among the city’s youth. The famed music video director sees meditation as an effective solution, due to the science-backed evidence that meditation has the ability to alter brain regions that control aggression. Although rooted in ancient Vedic practices of the Indian subcontinent and Hindu way of life, a new Era of Wellness has emerged upon us in the West.
A Practical Guide to Headspace-ing Your Way to Wellness
In my own meditation practice, Headspace has become an indispensable remedy to my own struggles with anxiety, stress and high-strung emotion. Sometimes the thoughts in my head running at 150 miles an hour and the physical feelings of sickness that come along with it are just too much to even try to raja yoga my through it.
That’s where Headspace comes in handy.
Headspace is an app that makes starting meditation practice (or habit) simple. The app is an endless library of short and long-form guided meditation courses to remedy every stressful, anxiety-ridden emotion you may be feeling. For wellness that truly supports the user in every aspect of life, there are courses and guides to follow for better sleep, focus for work, staying active and even soundscapes.
Turning to Headspace in anxious moments has become second nature to me, and I’ve built myself a mental wellness regimen that I can always fall back to with just a swipe on my phone and two easy steps.
Step 1: Pause with 5 Calming Breaths
An unsettled mind that feels distracted, flustered and bouncing with thoughts can feel overwhelming and impossible to tame, but simply pausing for just a few short minutes to breathe deeply can be enough to bring us back to the earth.
Deep breathing is proven to calm us down because of its ability to trigger the body’s relaxation response. By slowing down the heart rate and reducing tension in the muscles, deep breathing helps to counteract the body’s stress response. This allows the amount of oxygen in the body to increase, which leads us to experience a state of calmness and relaxation.
The Headspace app makes it easy to take a few cleansing breaths with animated Mindful Activities that coach us through deep breathing. When overwhelm strikes and all I can do is remember to breathe, I feel the tension wash away as I take a moment to ground myself. With one simple swipe through to the Headspace app’s homescreen, I’m on my way to soothing my mind, and Headspace gently coaches me through five deep, soothing breaths.
Step 2: Treat Headspace like Morning Pills
Headspace is a library of short, guided meditation courses that address nearly any emotion we typically associate with stress or overwhelm. Emotions that mirror what ‘Fear of the Future’, ‘Handling Sadness’ or ‘Feeling Overwhelmed’ feel like to us are remedied through practice, with the guidance of meditation teachers on the app.
While there isn’t a real morning pill we can take to put a concrete end to these feelings, we can address the root of these feelings. And with daily or regular practice facing these feelings head-on, we can clear up some headspace.
I treat short meditations on Headspace as my own morning pills depending on what I feel I need for the day, and sometimes that’s a short guided course on “Transforming Anger” to address healing the inner child, “Self-Compassion” to remind us to be kinder to ourselves and “Goals and Dreams” to ease the fear of the unknown as we trek forward on our own paths in life.
Even when you don’t know what you feel, there’s guidance for you in taking a moment to yourself to check-in. Check it out here and Headspace your way to wellness.