On March19th, FOCUS event attendees met at Yoga U Pgh in Oakland for a new “twist” on mental health discussions. The event was led by Vivian Lee Croft and Alyssa Cypher. Vivian, who specializes in yin yoga, kicked things off with chair yoga. Chair yoga is a great form of exercise for all groups- those new to yoga, students, older folks, anyone who sits for prolonged periods—as a way to connect breath to body throughout the day. Any type of connected movement and breathing throughout the day is great for physical health to get your joints moving and blood pumping, as well as re-centering your mind. Mindful breathing was critical in yin yoga, which is much slower than other styles of yoga. Mindful breathing can be a way to positively impact mental health outside of the yoga studio as well, if one finds themselves in a situation where they are feeling stressed or overwhelmed. One rather cathartic exercise used was to inhale, then forcefully exhale while physically “brushing off” one’s arms to shake away negative thoughts or experiences.
After we were stretched and centered, Alyssa began her portion of radical mental health, focused on self-care and self-preservation. Her exercise began with a quick writing exercise of jotting down everything that is bothering you, and then ripping the paper to shreds. This process takes back some of the power these negative things have over us. The next writing activity was jotting down ways that we engage in self-care. On a regular basis, this may include things like washing your face or making time for exercise and healthy meals. On a more critical mental health level, this can include times when you are too stressed to complete regular tasks, and may need to prioritize or ask for help. Alyssa left us with one final demand in our quest for self-care: treat yourself! As long as it is within your means, allow yourself to indulge and enjoy your life!