It’s my 54th birthday! I enjoy celebrating birthdays and mine is no exception. Through the years, I make a point to do a gathering because my greatest gift is to spend time with those I love who mean a lot to me. Sounds like that might be easy to accomplish, but, as you experience, time with family and friends – quality time together – is sparse or nonexistent in our way-too-busy Silicon Valley lifestyle. It’s interesting that this year I am the same age my mom was when she passed away. Now that I am this age, I’m even more startled at not just the brief life my mom had but the sense of vitality, thriving and youthfulness I feel … like a child seeing the excitement of what’s ahead!


The Dangers of Routine

Lately, I’ve learned that more and more people are on some form of antidepressants. I’m alarmed about that, and given my enthusiasm at my age, I’m saddened. I have family members that are mentally ill. I understand the power of a drug that sets the right course in our ever-complex brains.

But I think the kind of depression most common out here in this neighborhood goes like this: get up very early, get kids and yourself ready for work and school, do your job at a desk with extreme deadline pressures, pick up kids and take them to after school activities, make dinner, help with overwhelming loads of kid’s homework, walk the dog, and then lie down for a few hours from complete exhaustion. Filtered in there is holidays to prep for; kid’s appointments, applications, events; the emotional rollercoaster as they grow; vacations; responsibility for parents; work on weekends; traffic management; and the time needed to keep a marriage going. This is less an exaggeration than probably an understatement of our routine schedules! I’m not saying we can’t be happy doing it but I am saying that over time something in you can go dormant – your spirit. You’re not thriving, you’re merely surviving.

painting depicting depression

“Depression” by artist AJ Giel.

The Growth of Il Forniao

If you know Il Fornaio restaurants, then you know that they are vibrant Italian restaurants, each unique, full of fantastic authentic homeland food and so electric with warmth and joy when you enter one of the establishments. I worked for them for about 10 years. There was a time when the company went public. In less than a year, we were being compared to Cheesecake Factory and other chains. The pressure to increase was intense.

All of a sudden, we were systemic with procedures, auto this-and-that, penny-conscious, meeting-driven, and rewarded for good numbers. All this was smart since we live in an economic world, BUT it dulled any real life we held in spirit: no creativity, no spontaneity, no individuality, no recognition of the energy within the dining rooms, no regard for authenticity, and no fun in any meetings. Within two years, Il Fornaio thankfully got out from shareholder handling and is now, after years of “therapy,” back as they were – alive!

I share this analogy to give you perspective, but seriously, routine can blunt and damper our spirit. The common result? Depression! Unfortunately, what happens after so long is that we forget how to BE and even when we get a chance for some freedom, we don’t do it because we’ve been trapped for so long.

You’ve got to MOVE!

Maybe this doesn’t sound traumatic, but couple our routines with lack of movement and the result is deeper despair. Studies will tell you that the body is meant to move. Moving ensures mobile joints and prevents atrophy by enhancing circulation. We need movement, even in the brain!

But in our world today a lot of routine movement has gone away.  Not long ago, we used to labor in the fields, now we labor at our desks. We used to carry groceries up the stairs or walk outside to get our mail. But today, with a press of a finger, our groceries are delivered and our mail is in our inbox.  Even shopping is different: Amazon ships everything to our door, or we call Uber to take us directly where we want to go. No more walking through parking lots. Technological advancement is great, but we need to be careful what price we pay for it. I believe we’ve gone a little too far and it’s showing up in depression and loneliness.

I’m not unique – I just move

I certainly don’t mean to be so doom-and-gloom in this post. After all, as I sit here on my birthday it is a great time to be alive!  But as I review my life and how alive I feel, I know it’s not because I’m any more special than you are. So, what gives?!

If you know me, then you know my life has been busy with yoga! Almost 20 years of practice! And while my livelihood, vacations, and social life revolve around my yoga, you don’t need that level of consumption to receive the same benefits as me. All you need to do is decide! Decide to put yoga in your life, everyday or at least five times a week. Why?

Well for starters, you’ll move. 90 minutes of a Bikram Yoga practice guarantees that every part of your body – inside out, bones to skin, fingertips to toes – will move straight, back, side to side, forward and backward. This movement greases the joints, carries the blood, sends the oxygen and takes out the trash! No slowing down because your back won’t hurt, no Botox because your skin gains and keeps it’s elasticity, no insomnia because you’ve boosted melatonin, and no anxiety because you’ve stimulated, regulated, and created serotonin and other neurotransmitters in your brain. So, MOVE!

Restoring and Preserving Balance

The latest studies are showing that depression is associated with abnormalities in the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain just behind the forehead. Dysfunction in this area of the brain can wreak havoc with negative emotions and result in poor behavior choices and spiral into exaggerated anxieties creating overwhelming levels of stress. I’m not saying yoga, or Bikram Yoga, is the cure. But, we push against and stimulate that area of the brain 16 times in one class!

prefrontal cortex

Our bodies are an immeasurable storehouse of wisdom, and given the right gesture, we can reignite lost or atrophied areas and bring back homeostasis. We can harness the natural resources inherent in a healthy body and healthy mind – therefore, never having to fall into a deprivation or lack that causes a disruption in the body/mind performance somewhere. The research also tells us that when we interact with other people – family, friends or simple strangers – we also relieve depression. Just coming to the yoga studio and saying hi to your peers mitigates loneliness and depression. Makes sense, as we know intuitively that as humans we are meant to interact and socialize. Join our yoga community, get involved, and that alone will lift your spirits!

Escaping Mediocrity: How to THRIVE

This might be enough to get you going or keep you committed to your yoga practice. Still, yoga also protects you from the one “sin” we shouldn’t settle for – mediocrity. That is just not how we are made or what we are made for! Doom and gloom can strike at any time. Before you know it, you are rolling in depression, suffering to understand the point of your life. Not good!

We are not our bodies, and we are not our minds. So do your yoga and then both your mind and body are correctly calibrated and appropriately controlled. Yes, we have responsibilities to adhere to in our own worlds that seem monotonous and, over time, mind-numbing. But when you’ve gotten superior to the power it once had over you, your perspective can shift. It’s not what you’re doing, but your attitude and awareness while doing it that matters. That shift happens by taking control back IN the yoga room. And, in my experience, it should not be a choice!

meme about taking responsibility

Make your health and your yoga a responsibility just like any other you are accountable for. As a result, your inspiration will increase and you will fill every activity in your life with presence and vitality! 

It is your birthright have an ocean-sized life and not one keeping you in a creek bed full of stuck circumstances. Maintaining overall health in mind and body lifts you out of a perpetual victim cycle and sets you up for victory. Your sense of vitality can’t live small, so when your body is in place, your mind will follow. Even your spirit will have a place to live, super-sizing your life with energy and joy. I know because I’m living proof! 

As I reflect on the fullness of my life, rich in experience and abundant in blessings, the one piece that’s made all the difference is my yoga. It’s helped me live my life with individuality, creativity, laughter, authenticity, spontaneity, and faith, makes my spirit vibrant and advancing, and keeps my body and mind flexible and enduring. Depression is an epidemic right now in our world, and threatens to increase if we don’t take the reins back and advance what is inherently ours – a thriving life!  DO YOGA!