I have written before about how mental health provision has changed over the last twenty years or more.

I have been reminded of this recently when speaking to staff on a relative’s ward. The patient has what they call ‘a late start’ in the mornings but they offer to get her some breakfast when she appears from her room. If she does not appear they go to see her and ask if she would like a drink or some breakfast.

How different to my experiences in the 1990s. Then we would be called at 7.30 to go for breakfast and if our drugs left us dozy and still sleeping, the next call would be sharply delivered. You did not choose not to go to breakfast but lined up at the locked door and, once open, you filed down to the dining room. You were not given a choice and this applied to all activities and meals.

At 9.30 everyone save for the new admissions was sent for ‘exercises’ regardless of whether they felt like it and art groups and T groups, where a facilitator encourages patients to share feelings were compulsory. Also mandatory were relaxation sessions and yoga.

While I like the new patient-centred approach, I am thankful that, on my hospital stay in 1996 under the old regime, I was introduced to yoga, something I continued after discharge. Indeed, ever since that first experience, I have enrolled in classes on an annual basis. The weekly class, with some practice at home in between, became a life saver for me. The calmness of the mind and the feeling of well-being after stretching and holding poses changed me from a stressed and anxious individual into a rational person with a range of coping strategies. When faced with a new or stressful situation, the yogic breathing brought a sense of calm.

If you haven’t tried yoga and cannot afford a class, get a book from the local library and try some of the exercises and the instructions for clearing the mind. It is the debris in the mind that hangs about that yoga can deal with.

The debris and clutter that builds up can bring on anxiety and depression if it is not cleared away in the same way as you clean and clear up your house. See yoga as the hoover for the mind and you will soon reap the benefits.

Go on, you can do it. Give it a try.


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