Fighting anxiety, depression through yoga: Instructor draws on personal experience to refine style

Sara Schatz started rethinking the way she does yoga to help alleviate the symptoms of her anxiety disorder. Now she has started teaching others.

Sara Schatz says yoga has given her more tools to help alleviate anxiety

Sara Schatz says she has refined the way she does yoga to help alleviate anxiety. (Danielle Stasiuk Photography)

When Sara Schatz felt her anxiety disorder was worsening, she started researching ways to alleviate the symptoms.

She was already practising yoga but found the faster-paced sequences she was doing were not helping.

"There's so many different ways to practise it and it came to my attention that some of them, when you are first moving into trying to help with your anxiety and depression, are not necessarily helpful," she said.

Schatz started rethinking her approach and ordered a stack of books to learn more about the best types of yoga for people with anxiety and depression.

Finding the right flow

Through her readings and personal experimentation, she found that fast-moving yoga was not as effective.

She added that changing the way she does yoga has given her tools she can draw on to alleviate anxiety in her everyday life.

It helped her to get in touch with her habitual patterns, such as the types of thoughts she has, and refine her breathing techniques to reverse the symptoms, she said.

"It translates to when I have to make a difficult decision or I'm in a situation that I know might contain some triggers for me," said Schatz.

"It allows me to take a breath and to start using those tools and check in with what I'm doing in my body that's not helpful."

Slow and steady wins 

Schatz said she has now refined a slower-moving routine that she uses to teach yoga to people with depression and anxiety.

Last week Schatz started an eight-week program that explores how breath and the body connect to what is happening in the mind.

She is also holding one-off sessions on Nov. 25 and Dec. 3.

Schatz said the sessions are a safe space and people are asked not to reveal names or identifying details about other participants when they leave.

Partners play a role

She said partners were sometimes invited to the sessions.

"I think it's really great for them to be in a room with people who are going through something similar, and maybe those other partners are going through something similar," she said.

"Because I think it can be really isolating, and it can be very lonely and difficult for partners as well."

Schatz hopes the techniques she teaches in the workshops will help participants in their everyday lives.