My Testimonial on Bikram Yoga and Bipolar Disorder

A similar version of this was submitted to the Bikram Yoga College of India website earlier this evening. www.bikramyoga.com/

How It Began
I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at the age of 23. I began the Bikram practice at the age of 29, 11 years ago. I was overweight, isolated and living months at a time with depression that kept me in bed for most hours of most days every winter.

I began practicing Bikram Yoga and knew immediately that this practice would be good for me, if not just socially and for weight management but also for my circulation (I have had lymphedema since the age of 12) and for the relief of anxiety, hypo-mania and depression, all symptoms of bipolar disorder. I was fat, swollen, depressed, miserably sad, misunderstood and lonely. I was also grieving the death of my beloved older sister, D’Arcy two years earlier. She, too, had bipolar disorder. She went untreated and died a drug addict.

I have used Bikram Yoga successfully to manipulate and to help manage my bipolar mood changes. I have minimized my hypo-manic, anxious and depressive symptoms since beginning the practice in 2002 and have been without any extraordinarily unusual moods since 2005 (with the exception of once, after a break-up. I admit that I was angry and heartbroken.  I did some things that I should not have done. At least I didn’t set his bed on fire like my not-bipolar friend did when her boyfriend cheated on her! Yikes! ).

Yoga disrupted the cyclical and predictable mood changes that I had struggled with for years, leaving a smoother, more reliable energy level from which I could draw in order to live well, while still, more easily and more quietly, privately “entertaining” a mental illness.

How It Works
This practice regulates the rhythm of my days, my metabolism, my sleep/wake cycle, my appetite, my outlook, my confidence, my socializing, my feeling of connectedness to self and to others, and my weight fluctuations.

The practice of twenty-six postures and two breathing exercises in a room heated to 105′ ultimately relaxes me by lowering my heart rate, increasing my blood-oxygen level, synchronizing my respiratory, endocrine and nervous systems and realigning my musculo-skeletal system. It is detoxifying and purifying. The practice enforces self-confidence by practicing in the mirror for the entire ninety minutes. (“Look into the eyes of your own best teacher.”)

The practice provides an opportunity to cultivate the discipline and energy that it takes to manage a chronic and persistent mental illness.

The practice can help one cultivate a deeper awareness of oneself for the better management of both gross and subtle mood changes, with or without the diagnosis. It has done that for me.

It produces, in the end, over-all feelings of contentment, known as santosha in Sanskrit.

What Happened As A Result of My Daily Yoga Practice
Today, I am an Ananda Yoga and Meditation Instructor, in the same lineage as Bikram Yoga. I am also a disciple of Paramhansa Yogananda, Bishnu Ghosh’s brother (who was Bikram’s teacher). I continue to use the therapeutic, Yogic tools that I have learned for mood management on myself and I teach these to others now – with great success!

By the regular practice of Bikram Yoga, people living with bipolar disorder can practice self-discipline, self-study, and devotion (tapasya, swadhyaya and ishwara pranidana in Sanskrit, respectively), just by showing up, all of which are helpful and applicable conducts of behavior that apply to everyone… but that are especially therapeutic for a disorder of mood inconsistency. These tenets of Yogic philosophy have been especially important in my personal recovery.

Yoga is like a miracle. I can’t believe that there aren’t any other testimonials about Bikram Yoga as mood management for bipolar disorder. Hopefully there will be more, soon! (We are a shy and stigmatized, self-protective bunch, by necessity. Bipolar is commonly misunderstood and can be scary. It can be dangerous and it can be deadly.)

Conventional Therapies and Clarity
Medication was the only treatment plan for me at diagnosis. I was irresponsibly over-medicated at onset. I gained 50 pounds, my hair fell out, I was like a zombie. I had to drop out of school for 6 months, though I was expected to (and did) graduate from college. I went off of medication after one year. I was horrified by the results.

I resumed medication in 2005: Three years of a daily, 90-minute Yoga practice gave me the clarity to understand that my brain needed something to steady the shifting tides, something that my will alone could not provide, and I recognized that I was working as hard as I possibly could at this hot, sweaty, crazy Yoga thing – that definitely helped steady my moods, more than anything else that I had ever tried – but it didn’t help all the way. I was no longer willing to spend my energy controlling – or trying to control – all of my brain’s activities on my own. The illness was just too in-born for me to completely manage on my own. I gave in to the temptation for a higher quality of life.

After years of hot, sweaty contemplation and observation, wearing next-to-nothing and twisting my body in the mirror morning, noon and night, I could finally surrender to this understanding of a certain powerlessness and to the possibility of a finding a proper doctor to prescribe proper medication in proper dosages.

What a gift to have such clarity.

Adjunctive Therapies, Breakthrough Symptoms and Bad Genes
I finally had the energy and well-being to seek out and find a doctor whom I trusted. This took about a year, if I recall, going through a quacky doctor or two before finding dear Dr. Olson. I have also had a talk-therapist since 2004, Ruth. She practices Yoga and understands its therapeutic value. Talk-therapy, including Cognitive Behavior Therapy and Dialectical Behavior Therapy, is the only adjunctive treatment to medication therapy that is universally recognized as treatment for bipolar disorder (though still not completely reimbursed by insurance companies). Yoga research is needed to reveal Yoga’s therapeutic value and potential for this population. Yoga needs to be made widely available to those who suffer.

A common attitude of doctors is that those with bipolar disorder can live a high-quality life once medicated. Yet it must be understood that breakthrough symptoms occur no matter the medication, because stress triggers symptoms. I found my breakthrough symptoms greatly neutralized only with a combination of the regular practice of Yoga and proper medication. Bikram Yoga is highly stress-reductive. It is demanding, yes  but, also, the posture series is complete.The spine is manipulated in a sequence that calms the nervous system. The practice has transformed my breakthrough symptoms to make them more infrequent and ever-so-gentle.

Bipolar disorder has high rates of co-occurring suicide, homicide and substance abuse associated with it. My older sister committed suicide. My father, who self-medicates with alcohol and prescription drugs, and my aunt both have this disorder of the brain. With this close genetic influence, it is understood that my health is “delicate” and that I need therapies and support for the rest of my life to stay active and to lead a normal life. Yoga helps me remain watchful and stable.

From Survival To Recovery
Without Yoga, I might not be alive today. This sounds dramatic, but it is the truth.

In 2002, when my friends and surviving sister suggested that I go to my first Bikram class, I had been in bed, for about four months straight, with my usual seasonal depression, for the third winter in a row. I was having suicidal thoughts at the time. Yoga literally saved my life – Bikram Yoga literally saved my life, actually – because of its popularity, its accessibility, its encouragement of a consistent, daily practice and because of its effects on the brain.

Within 24 hours of that first class, I noticed a shift in my mood that lasted from… that lasted from about twenty minutes into the class, from about the second set of half-moon pose (“I can do this!”) to hours later and into the next day, when I decided to go for another class.

Like most people, I do not hear voices as a general rule. That is not one of my illness’ symptoms, not for me, anyway. However, I find it notable that during my third class, while in savasana, I heard a voice that said, “This is the thing.” I knew then and there to keep showing up.

And so I did.

The stormy seas of my mind calmed and stayed calmer. The jabs of anxiety weren’t so sharp and they finally subsided altogether (they did return ten years later when I couldn’t practice for other health reasons. I had been out of the studio regularly for over nine months. Mood instability became detectable, first subtly and, over time, more loudly, illustrating the long-term buffering effect Yoga had on my moods, biochemically). The deep depressions disappeared immediately.
I lost weight, I gained strength and flexibility and I made friends and developed a community.

I practiced eight days of the ten of my original ten-day trial-package. After 2 1/2 years of practicing anywhere from five to ten times a week (a week of doubles!), in 2004 I recognized that not only did I want to attend a Yoga teacher training program to learn more about Yoga and why it was so fulfilling and therapeutic for me, but also that I was ready to try a new medication.

I went from working two days a week to currently teaching six classes a week, independently (I am not affiliated with any studio, unusual for this region) and teaching twice a week privately to a client with bipolar disorder.

I have not been hospitalized since taking medication and practicing Yoga. My focus has shifted from my illness to my wellness.

I plan to offer more Yoga/Bipolar Therapy group and private classes both locally and, hopefully, at conferences nationally and internationally, to continue to represent those living with bipolar disorder in a respectful and enlightening way and to share the healing potential that Yoga offers to the mental health community.

I hope also to inspire the conduct and publication of scientific research on this subject, if I cannot execute it myself. No research currently exists on Yoga therapy and bipolar disorder.

I may be the world’s expert on Yoga and bipolar disorder – I have found no others – at least, that’s what three different people suggested to me, just in the last week!

I used to spend months crippled in bed by this disorder. “Like a flower petal blooming,” through Yoga I have become a Yogini, an advocate for Yoga and bipolar therapy and research, a teacher and a more confident woman. I continue my outreach, education, teaching and personal practice to share the therapeutic effects of Yoga to those in need and to help break the silence that veils mental illness.

31 thoughts on “My Testimonial on Bikram Yoga and Bipolar Disorder

  1. thatwiseyogi

    What an amazing article, Brooke! I have suffered from depression my entire life and truly believe that if it weren’t for yoga and meditation, I too, would be dead. Thank you for sharing this amazing story and insight about your life and your experiences. It is quite inspiring! The bi-polar community is blessed to have you as an advocate, a Healer and a teacher. Blessings & Namaste, Dear One~ Lori

    Reply
    1. brookewestyoga Post author

      Thank you for taking the time to read it! Depression kills. Yoga saves! If only more people would publish testimonials on how Yoga has been therapeutic for their mental instability… Communication is good medicine! Stay well XoXoX

      Reply
    2. Wendy Walker

      I love you Lori Wise! You wise Yogini you. Thank you for sharing this. I am still processing it and with that said, I’m speechless at the moment for finding the words to express how deeply this touched me on SO many levels. I have never read a testimonial about Bikram yoga, that for lack of a better word “nails” the benefits of a consistent Bikram yoga practice than this one from Brooke. Thank you Brooke, Lori, Ananda, Yogananda, Bishnu and Bikram!!! Ommm.

      Reply
      1. brookewestyoga Post author

        These comments are incredible! How scary it is to “come out” and break the stigma… a couple of days after I posted this I wondered, “Am I going to have any friends after this?” Of course, my real friends come even closer when they learn more about me, just like anyone.
        This was posted on two Bikram Yoga Facebook pages and shared by friends. I am reading a lot of positive feedback! Some follow below and, to address the one comment regarding Dialectical Behavior Therapy: DBT is described as a combination of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Mindfulness techniques on the interview with Sheri Van Dijk, MSW, RSW, psychotherapist at http://dbtforbipolar.com/. Fascinating. DBT is practiced with a trained therapist in a “talk-therapy” setting and shows great success in addressing the thoughts, emotions and behaviors of those with mood dysfunction. Thank you! Thank you, everyone!

        Alexandra Indaco Thank you Mateo, fascinating story. And beautiful courage to share something so intimate. She did a great job in doing so.
        Saturday at 8:21pm · Like
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        Mateo Fresquez Hi Alexandra! Aren’t you doing some research concerning yoga? How’s it going?
        Saturday at 10:22pm · Like
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        Alexandra Indaco Hi Mateo!!! Yes! I just started my Masters two days ago!:)) I will inbox you and tell you more. muaaxox
        Saturday at 10:23pm · Unlike · 1
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        Katie Hedges Out of this whole awesome article I get stuck on one thing, that talk therapy is the only approved therapy for Bi polar. Untrue. Your friend might be interested in DBT, a very specific form of cognitive behavior therapy that is based on Buddhist philosophy. It changes a person’ s brain chemistry just like yoga or the medication people get put on. It is actually something for all people to learn for healthier, happier living!
        Sunday at 6:02am via mobile · Like · 1
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        Write a comment…
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        Lori Logan and Abbey Gagnon like this.
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        Kat d’Artois !!! my brother suffers greatly from bipolar disorder. this is great!
        Saturday at 11:30pm · Like

        And these are comments from a Share that one of my fellow graduates posted in Alabama

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        David Roberts What a great story!
        Sunday at 10:45am via mobile · Like · 1
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        Sarah Matthews Pongracz Thank you for sharing this article Teddy.
        Sunday at 11:12am · Like · 1
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        Dusty Braud Bailey Awesome
        Sunday at 12:08pm via mobile · Like
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        Libba Vanderbeek I know a couple of people this would help!
        Yesterday at 4:40am via mobile · Like

  2. Dambara

    Excellent, honest, open-hearted and inspiring article, Lori! Thanks for all these qualities you radiate and share. There are so many folks suffering from Depression these days, that if you’re moved to share your experiences more widely, it may help many others. Blessings!

    Reply
  3. Dambara

    Oh…wait…that comment would be for Brooke West, who’s also an Ananda Yoga teacher. (But I wouldn’t have read it had you not posted it, Lori—and YOU DO radiate honesty, open-heartedness and inspiration as well!)

    Reply
  4. Dia Silverstein

    What a beautifully written and vulnerable article. Congratulations on all your hard work to heal yourself. I hope you continue your journey to educate others and research the relationship between yoga and managing mental illness. People need to hear about this! I am a Bikram yoga teacher and I love hearing these stories and sharing them with others. There is so much that we can do to heal ourselves, outside of medication. Western culture is only starting to embrace this and begin the slow and grinding u-turn from over medicating to appropriately medicating and incorporating alternative methods of self-healing.

    Reply
  5. Jr

    This is another reason why I continue to enjoy Bikram yoga. I, too, am bipolar. And, my doctor has also noticed a change, resulting from monthly to tri-monthly follow up visits. In addition, from 4 meds to just 1. In the psych world, that’s almost synonymous to a yearly examination. My first session with Bikram yoga was crucial. But that feeling soon went away. My body and mind automatically wanted more-and-more. I challenge myself a little bit more every time. But the fact remains … I’m finally LIVING. Free of intense and uncontrollable negative behaviors. Free of mental darkness. And, I’m back in school and working full-time. I ask myself, with all the negative comments about Bikram yoga, there isn’t a moment when I think, this is harmful to me in any other way. On the contrary, I can think and focus much clearer and rationally – leading to self-realization.

    Oh yeah …and as for the weight gain from meds: gone!

    Namaste

    Reply
    1. brookewestyoga Post author

      This is amazing.
      Congratulations!
      I tend to be very specific when saying that I have bipolar disorder, rather than “I am bipolar.” I am so many other things first. This affirmation is a pranayama technique (energy control = an affirmation!)
      Elyn Saks, in her book The Center Cannot Hold, about her journey as a an academic law professor living with schizophrenia, ends the book: “My good fortune is not that I’ve recovered from mental illness. I have not, nor will I ever. My good fortune lies in having found my life.”
      Rock on! See you on the mat!!

      Reply
  6. Alicia Eifell

    A million thank you’s for posting this. I honor your courage and honesty in sharing this. I have been affected by an illness that has symptoms which are similar to bipolar disease which came on after I was diagnosed with and had surgery for Crohn’s disease. I began to practice yoga in 1994 after my surgery and came to a Bikram practice in a fairly “round-a-bout” way as there was a group practicing Moksha yoga in Trinidad where I am from. There is not a Bikram studio here but I have practiced in London studios as often as I can. I am determined to bring this to the Caribbean as it would help with so many ailments. I have the perfect space for it in a central location but I need teachers. Please let me know if you can offer advice or assistance.

    You are doing a great thing with sharing information on the connection of the yogic cures for mental ailments.

    Namaste

    Reply
    1. brookewestyoga Post author

      Thank you, Alicia, and to everyone who has responded recently. I am so grateful that you are moved to reply and that this piece touched you at all.

      I have practiced Bikram in London, too!

      It is undetermined if any Yoga will help alleviate the symptoms of bipolar disorder or if certain asana and pranayama/other Yogic practices will do the trick for certain people, since there is no scientific data yet on bipolar disorder and Yoga Therapy (my sense is that they would, as a Yoga therapist). Yoga’s therapeutic effects are obvious through the Bikram system because Bikram Yoga is accessible, studios are numerous, popular and worldwide and the system of 26/2 is intense enough to have a physiological effect one pretty much anyone’s body/mind who tries it. Other styles (such as Moksha) may have the same or similar results. Bipolar-specific practices have yet to be established.

      Keep the conversations going!

      I also want to stress that Yoga would act as a treatment and not a cure for this mental ailment.

      Bipolar disorder is a brain disease that affects men and women equally and knows no racial barriers. Individual therapy, case studies and more testimonials are needed to create a data base so that Yoga therapy can become available to others around the globe.

      Break the silence. The positive response that I have had after writing this has been overwhelming! Even close friends didn’t know my diagnosis before posting this piece and now we are talking about it and I feel much less isolated and more confident, more accepted and understood and better able to educate. Wonderful!

      Be well and bless you on your healing journey,
      Brooke

      Reply
  7. psakse.gr

    Thanks for one’s marvelous posting! I truly enjoyed reading it, you might be a great author. I will ensure that I bookmark your blog and will eventually come back in the foreseeable future. I want to encourage you to definitely continue your great work, have a nice morning!

    Reply
  8. Isaac

    My name is Isaac and I have been on medication for bipolar for over 20 years. It has helped me tremendously but far from perfect. Last year my family and I moved from NY to FLA. I’ve had and lost 3 jobs since. I’ve been married for 18 years, and when I lost my most recent job, my wife couldn’t deal. I resiged from my job of 6 years when we decided to leave NY. I went through multiple manias with each new job and simply leaving NY. My wife is angry, frustrated and not sure if our marriage will last. I’ve recently read that bipolar marriages have a 90% failure rate. I want to be part of the 10% that makes it.

    My wife recently got heavily into yoga and kickboxing and she looks and feels great. She is a new person.

    After reading you posting I am convinced that yoga might just save my marriage and help me with my swings. I love your message and it inspires me to try yoga for the first time. I found your message while trying to find how yoga pulls coupled apart- my wife is going 3 to 4 times per week. Rather than working on our marriage, she appears to self absorbed and almost addicted to her yoga classs. I am concerend and was looking to see if other husbands feel neglected as a result of yoga obsession. Turns out I could not find anything remotely negative about practicing yoga. Giving up, I figured I would try to find a type of yoga that could help me. This is when I found your posting.

    I am very interested in learning how I can get started. I’m not very flexible and could stand to lose 10 or 15 pounds. My wife is in great shape and I need to catch up. As you can see I am facing marital issues, employment issues, and bipolar issue all at once.

    Would love to hear back from you. I think I can benefit from your insight and guidance. I know I can’t go to the advanced classes that she goes to, but I’ve got to start somewhere, and if I can gain better control of my mood swings, I just might be able to find a new life for myself, my children and my wife.

    Look forward to your reply and thanks in advance. Great article! Would love to help other bipolars as well. I am inspired by you. You Rock!

    Reply
    1. brookewestyoga Post author

      Thank you for your thoughtful reply, Isaac! Your story and your inspiration are inspiring to me, as well!

      I believe that Yoga could save your marriage, but maybe not in the ways that you might think or hope. I don’t know exactly how it might work for you in your life specifically, but, for example, you write, “My wife is in great shape and I need to catch up.” Remember, we progress and grow and evolve in our own way and at our own pace. We are individuals on this planet, with different brains and different bodies, different struggles and different accomplishments, different needs and different rhythms. Remember that there is no competition in the journey to the Self. Your wife has her trail to blaze and, though you may follow her path, your experience will be different, for reasons you may or may not be able to list. Observing and respecting your own individuality and hers with compassion, for example, may inadvertently help your relationship with your wife. Ahimsa, non-harming, or gentleness, is the first tenet of a Yogic lifestyle in Yogic philosophy. Be gentle with the pressure you put on yourself. You are healing from moving, job loss, aging, financial and marital stress, loss of all that you knew in New York, learning a new culture in Florida… go easy. Consider yourself to be in recovery-mode. Even the attitude of “catching up” might be setting you back a bit, subtly. There IS no hurry. You are right where you need to be. Accept yourself as you are right here. And again. And again. And again. This is the practice of Yoga.

      “I am very interested in learning how I can get started.” Congratulations! You already have! Yoga philosophy suggests beginning where you are (Atha yoganushasanam). Becoming curious, developing self-awareness, being willing to try new things, doing them gently… are all the practice of Yoga. Asana (postures) and meditation are only two aspects (the most commonly known in America) of this wellness package… but they bring the other aspects, also helpful for mood management, into reach.

      “I’m not very flexible and could stand to lose 10 or 15 pounds.” The trio of strength, flexibility and balance are key for asana practice. You may be more flexible in some areas than in others- exhibiting physical or mental flexiblity, patience or compassion; back bending may come more easily than forward bends. We are all stronger/more flexible/more balanced in some ways than the others. I have to work on balance issues- mental balance, EVERY DAY FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE! Stay strong. Be gentle with yourself and avoid limiting your self before you begin. Keep focusing on your strengths and the rest will come in time. You don’t have to be skinny or limber to begin an asana practice. I just have to get on the mat, observe, be gentle in mind and body and breathe.

      Bikram Yoga heats the body by heating the room, creating an environment which will soften and stretch the muscles more than in a cold room (like heating metal before applying pressure to create a new tool). It is a beginner-level class. The Yoga is do-able for most people; it’s the heat that gets to people- but the heat that builds endurance, concentration, focus. If another Yoga studio is more convenient and realistic for you to attend classes, try their classes titled Beginner, Level One, Gentle, Basic or Restorative. Most other classes are unheated. I am not sure how they manage Yoga room temperature in Florida. I would say that practicing warm is physically safer than practicing cool.

      There is evidence now that, among other things, Yoga increases GABA levels in the brain (you can also buy GABA in pill form). Aiding in calming anxiety levels, increasing stress-resilience and helping with sleep, the natural effects of Yoga on GABA neurotransmitters help to fire up the part of the brain that “feels” more while also firing up the part of the brain that judges less. (Feeling sad more, but commenting on it less, for example. The more you learn to feel sad, the less depressed you may become. Sensory experiences and emotions are fleeting, and not getting stuck in that dialogue is training your personal Therapeutic Mechanism. Remember, thoughts become emotions which become moods which become behaviors, in that order. Catching the process as far back as possible will help the bipolar struggle. Not judging can be one more way to soothe the bipolar disorder process.) It’s the Judging-Less part that makes Yoga so addictive, I think. We all have the same baseline from which to become stressed. Bipolar survivors have less resilience (for whatever reason). But Yoga practitioners have a chemical buffer in their brain that gives them an edge, whether they are diagnosed bipolar or not. This GABA buffer can be detected by practitioners often after just one class- their first class. This makes people want to go back, because that buffer makes life a little bit easier. For people with bipolar disorder, that buffer can save self-image, then relationships, marriages, jobs, and probably even lives.

      Evidence shows that doing something, some Yoga, everyday (10 minutes) is better than one hour once a week for GABA levels. In this way, Yoga becomes a protective factor that requires a daily dose, just like medication. The practice of Yoga, however, reaches aspects of life that medications can’t touch, including social bonding experiences. Something like taking a Yoga class with one’s spouse, enjoyable individually and together, or a meeting of the minds after your own Yoga class back at home about your experience can be extraordinarily therapeutic and can help ease anxiety and stress on the home front.

      GABA levels rise if you like your practice. So choose your own, find your own way, be inspired by others… but learn your own body and your own moods, your own personal limits (which change hourly) on your own mat. Sounds like you are being invited! Let Yoga be all about you and let it be your own personal science experiment.

      One more thing: There isn’t yet any real scientific evidence about Yoga’s therapeutic benefits for people living with bipolar disorder.
      “Would love to help other bipolars as well.” The world needs more testimonials to bust stigma. Mental health in general always needs more funding and research- but specifically about Yoga’s effects on bipolar disorder, in my opinion. Isaac, if you choose to practice Yoga, would you consider writing down or emailing how you feel before and after class? After a month or six weeks, together we could revisit your findings. I’d like to use it to help build the foundation for compiling testimonials and eventually for funding a study. If more in-depth self-study interests you (svadhyaya, in Sanskrit), I could suggest some more specific mood scales (“On a scale from one to ten, I feel…”) for you to complete as a part of your practice to add to the body of evidence that Yoga helps bipolar mood management. All of this, of course, only if it interests you. Most of all in your recovery, let yourself feel guided. Let it be fun. Move in the spirit of joy and in the spirit of adventurousness. Move in the spirit of hope. Don’t do it for me or for your wife. Do it for the bigger Self in you that is tied to everything else and worthy of every good thing there is. Do it because You Rock!

      May you find your way swiftly to recapture the harmony in your mind and body that will expand into your family relations and into the rest of your world. You deserve it.
      Thank you for writing. What a joy to read your comment.
      AUM Peace
      Brooke

      Reply
      1. Isaac

        I looked into Bikram classes and sure enough, it is available in Ft. Lauderdale, not far from where I live. They offer 3 into classss for $30. I can swing that even if I’m unemployed😄

        I have been coping by trying to live in the “now” 5 minutes at a time when i find myself in the black. I would love to contribute by using a scale of how I am progressing with my Yoga journey and helpin to fund future initiatives is something that I would be proud to be a part of.

        Your reply is much more than I expected, so now you have inspired me twice (but I promise not to keep score). Feel free to send any score sheets to help me keep track. I would probably continue way past 6 weeks as my bipolar is seasonal and can occur 3 to 4 times per year, and of course outside triggers can account for swings as well. I never plotted my swings thanks to my wife who has a better memory than me, and because she figured out a pattern even pointed it out to my psych doctor, who concurred when looking at my history!

        I recently reached out to a local NAMI org. in my area, also looking to contribute and try peer to peer coping skills for me and my wife (2 separate and different classes). It’s funny that it took 18 years to figure out that we cant go at this alone. I guess I relationship is that strong!

        I won’t get too cocky though, as we both have plenty of work to do for ourselves and for each other.

        Please send whatever materials you have and I will be glad to contribute as much as possible – seeing how I’m not currently working, I have plenty of time!

        I have my eyes and my mind wide open, and looking to embrace every moment with renewed strength and clarity. I am sure with the incredible support I can lean on. Just before leavin NY I came “out of the closet” and feel more comfortable about it than ever before). Funny thing is that whereas I was sure my telling co-workers that I have bipolar would bring the big aha moment, they all said they were simply much too busy to have noticed! I guess I carry a good front, but never knew how good.

        Let’s break boundaries!

      1. Isaac

        Thank you do much for sending me the forms. I will complete them as you instructed and get them back to you. You’ve gone above and beyond and tha speaks volumes about who you are and what your out to accomplish – truly an inspiration that is certain to touch others with BP. THANK YOU!

  9. Melissa

    I am 40 years old and was diagnosed with bipolar illness almost 20 years ago in 1993. I believe my first manic episode was in 1988, however. I have been non-compliant with medication, and as such have had 4 major episodes of mania over the years–1993, 1996, 1999, and after a long stretch of semi-stability–again another episode in 2010.

    For years I had denied the diagnosis, because it was always triggered by marijuana use. My dozen years of semi-stability were from abstaining from pot use and working on myself, slowly and steadily, without medication or professional help. But in 2010, I had an episode out of the blue, triggered by World Series Baseball!

    I’ve restarted my Bikram practice lately and love the peaceful feeling it gives me. Out of necessity, I have a very small, narrow life, because I don’t handle over-stimulation too well. But through Bikram yoga, I’ve seen I need to open up my life, own my diagnosis, and try a new medication and psychotherapy–this time while not in the middle of crisis (mania).

    I’m through with denying my illness, living in shame of the stigma, the past scary-bad episodes, and the sense I’ve wasted a good deal of my life hiding away from others due to bad experience, shyness, and unstable moods.

    Thank you for sharing your story, I hope more people with bipolar discover how healing Bikram yoga is for every aspect of health, including mental.

    Reply
    1. brookewestyoga Post author

      That was lovely to read. Thank you for writing it.
      I can relate to the “small, narrow life” (though maybe one day it won’t be a necessity), opening up to life through a Yoga practice, being triggered by the World Series (you’re not the only one!), bad experience and shyness.
      We are exactly the same age, too. I was diagnosed in 1995.

      “I’m through with denying my illness, living in shame of the stigma, the past scary-bad episodes, and the sense I’ve wasted a good deal of my life hiding away from others due to bad experience, shyness, and unstable moods.” Thanks for practicing this by writing me today, Melissa!

      Be in touch and let me know how Yoga affects your moods/life and/or if you’d like to measure your moods informally while you practice. I can send you some questionnaires and scales.

      Hydrate or die!
      Be well
      Peace AUM
      Brooke

      Reply
      1. Melissa

        Thanks for the fast reply, Brooke, and email me your mood scales if you like. I’m hoping to keep a regular practice, at least 3x a week for now. Does my email show up on your end?

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