Yoga helped me to get out of antidepressants I had been taking for 20 years; eliminated insomnia; and recently got me through radiation treatment and cancer surgery with flying colors.

Two decades ago a ¾ ton truck hit my little 4 cylinder car leaving me with a head injury, fractures in the ribcage, leg and pelvis, and subsequent chronic fatigue, depression and insomnia. It took me years to put my physical body back together. However, for 20 years the lasting fatigue and depression were another story all together.

I kept asking myself, “What’s wrong with me? Will I ever be okay?” I tried many things; went to maybe 30 different doctors. Nothing really helped. For years and years I would get up late in the morning, make a cup of tea and then just sit on a couch like a zombie for the rest of the day, paralyzed by fatigue and depression. At night, I would stay up until 3 a.m. and still have a hard time getting to sleep.

In October 2006, my beautiful daughter found a class called “Yoga for the Larger Woman” and she thought it would wonderful if we could take it. I had tried yoga about fifteen years ago, but the poses were too strenuous. This class is different. This is something I can do and enjoy, and afterwards I feel better, not just physically, but emotionally and mentally as well.

Then in the spring of 2010 I signed up for a year-long home practice project. I committed to building up a daily home practice, under Vilma’s guidance, and blogging about it several times a week during the course of the year. I made it through the year, and the commitment to my daily yoga practice turned things around for me.

Every morning, for one year, depressed or not, fatigued or not, with a good night’s sleep or not, I went to my yoga mat to practice. I practiced in the morning, afternoon and at night right before I went to bed. Before long I realized I could now go to bed at 11 p.m. and actually go right to sleep – no more need for those sleeping pills. This was amazing.

And when I was feeling “blue”, I would just hit my yoga mat, and feel less depressed afterwards. After a few months I decided to see if I could get off the antidepressants I had been taking for 20 years. I went at this slowly. It took me two months, but I did it. And when I did, my depression level actually went down.

I am so happy that I am off antidepressants. And I am grateful that I managed this a few months before I was diagnosed with rectal cancer.

That diagnosis wasn’t exactly welcome news, but my yoga practice somehow helped me to get through the subsequent radiation treatments and surgery. It never occurred to me to drop out of the project, or to stop practicing. And I was absolutely amazed that I was able to maintain my energy and recover from surgery unbelievably well. It has to be yoga. That’s the only variable. That’s the thing I kept doing. That’s all I know. No matter what, I just kept practicing yoga. So for me yoga is power. Yoga is ease. Yoga is my life saver.

- Helen