Sunday, December 25, 2011

Last Minute Gift

The present nobody left you under the tree is peace of mind. Am I right? And just about now, you’d do anything to have it.

I have one word for you: yoga. Or even just a serious program of stretches. If you spend 20 minutes doing yoga stretches or any real stretches that involve your whole body, this will do a lot for your frame of mind. Why?

Well, there are some standard answers, such as what it does for your muscles, and for your circulation. There are some more esoteric reasons also that I happen to subscribe to: when a mentally ill person, or any person, walks around (or sits around) all day getting more and more tense, it is not only the muscles that bunch up and freeze, and it is not only the circulation that gets stuck. The energy moving through your system also gets stuck. It balls and snarls up in the joints and other places where you’ve been wincing or freezing. It makes you feel rotten, and as time passes with no relief, you feel MORE rotten, building and building, e.g. Holiday stress. And in many ways, mental illness is about having a snarled up energy system.

If you believe the body has only physical components, this won’t wash with you, but if you think humans are a little bit more, you will agree that we are also our state of consciousness, which pretty much equates to our energy state. The Chinese knew this, and believe that the whole body is an energy system arranged on meridians, almost like a grid, along which energy flows. Tapping into or blocking the energy flow at any point has measurable effects on our health and peace of mind, and this is the theory behind acupressure, acupuncture, and EFT (the system of treatment commonly known as “that tapping thing”). Imbalances in your energy state, I believe, are very much connected to things like being tense, jittery, and overanxious (Anxiety Disorder); depletion of energy helps to make us Depressed, and god knows that too much energy trapped in one place, not able to be dispersed, can certainly lead to Mania.

So what happens when you do yoga, or even some slow, thorough stretches, is that you open up these kinks in the system and let the energy flow freely again. It doesn’t hurt that a good yoga class often has music that helps puts you into a trancelike state, and that movements are smooth, positions being thoughtfully held for many moments at a time. The net result, at least for a time, is PEACE OF MIND. Your energy and circulation and muscles are moving in a smooth, balanced manner again, and you feel better in every way. I don’t know about you, but that’s what I want for Christmas.

I can’t speak for everybody. But I know that I can walk into a yoga class in terrible shape, maybe even just on the edge of going psychotic, and I walk out of there energized and peaceful, as balanced as I ever get. If your mental and emotional states are problematic, this is definitely a gift you should give yourself. Go down to the local YMCA and sign up; they have scholarships based on income, just right for the disabled person. Going even once a week can make a difference to your life.

It doesn’t make the Christmas rush go away, but it’s the best advice I’ve got.

Deborah is a public speaker and the author of Is There Room for Me, Too? 12 Steps & 12 Strategies for Coping with Mental Illness. She has also published two romantic comedies. All three books are available on, Barnes and, Kindle Editions, iBooks, and other major vendors; or  you can order them from your local bookstore. Visit her web page at, or see her catalog at Her newest project is a guided meditation CD produced with her husband, musician Robert Hamaker; available on iTunes and many other venues.