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How Yoga Became My Lifeline in Navigating Depression and Building Self-Love

“My relationship with myself was pretty broken and I had no self-belief, I had low self-esteem and I resented my family. It was through yoga that I found the truest feeling of comfort, self-compassion, and courage to move forward, grow as a person, and fall back in love with myself and life again.”

Hello! Who are you?

Hello, I am Echo, the Lead Trainer and Founder of Yoga Kawa, a corporate wellness company. I live in Toronto, Canada with my amazing husband, my sweet boy, and 2 cutest fur babies.

My passion is sharing the gifts of yoga, reiki, and meditation with others. My self-care routine or hobby includes yoga and meditation, of course, reading, getting massages, eating desserts, tarot card readings, playing board games, and planning for vacations. 

I would consider myself to be happy. After I’ve discovered yoga and meditation, I have come to know that everything always works out for me. Also, this lifetime for me is about achieving and celebrating my highest potential and bringing as many people with me as possible. 

Echo Wang

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What is your struggle and when did it start?

In 2005 when I was in my 3rd year at University of Toronto, a fire broke out in the basement of my home on my birthday. My parents were in the house at the time and my sisters were studying and working away from home and the country. The fire was probably one of the best things that happened in my life but of course, I couldn’t see that until 2009, when all the events and ordeal subsided. 

From the event, and the way it unfolded, I developed depression, sleep disorder (bruxism – teeth grinding), insomnia, codependency, and eczema over face, body, and scalp. 

Insomnia and teeth grinding started a few days after the fire due to a myriad of problems that were lurking before this. Long story short, back then, my religious parents secretly blamed me for the fire on my birthday that took away our home and possessions because I was in a personal relationship with a non-believer. I felt guilty, ashamed, and accountable for the event. 

In the event of possibly losing the value of our home, our father confessed that there is a huge amount of debt on the house because he was addicted to day trading in the stock market where he lost all the money and was in heavy debt from other financial institutions as well. 

Not only am I trying to keep my GPA in school, and work a part-time job, I had to deal with unsympathetic insurance adjusters who are trying to devalue everything we owned. My parents are not fluent in the language so I had to be involved in everything. 

At the same time, the three of us were moving around for places to live as well. Within a few weeks, eczema started to show up on my face, scalp, arms, and legs, which further troubled my sleep due to the burning itching sensation.

My boyfriend at the time, who I thought I could depend on as my rock when I was a mess physically and emotionally, was not understanding, sympathetic, supportive, or helpful at all towards this messy, not-put-together stage of me.

He was being unfaithful at that time, which I learned at a later stage. Our relationship evolved into one that would be a toxic dynamic of narcissism and codependency. 

All the paramount pressure and the messiness of life caused me to have suicidal thoughts as well. Thank goodness that the pressure of needing to take care of my parents, getting my parents through the financial crisis, and an undying “why-me” and self-love, kept me going. 

The depression lasted for 3 years until I finished school but it would come back whenever I had career problems or situations that affected my financial state. The codependency lasted for a decade and till now I still have eczema and teeth-grinding problems.

How did this struggle make you feel at your worst moments?

For 2 years I felt guilt, shame, low self-esteem, helplessness, and unworthiness until one of my sisters returned home after she finished her master’s degree to come back home to help.

After the depression, the pattern of interrupted sleep continued and put me in a foggy brain for a long time, especially the fact that I was still in a toxic relationship that I couldn’t pull myself out of. 

I became a very closed-off person because of the “why-me” mentality so my ego was being protective. I have only told very few selective people whom I considered wise beyond their years or were close enough. Unfortunately, my family was not a safe place to share my feelings at the time. And of course, not my boyfriend. 

So, yes, I tried to be normal and cool in front of most people. 

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Was there a moment when you started to turn things around?

Definitely, there were moments of hopefulness when our case closed with the insurance adjuster, and got our home and what’s left in our home back. But the financial debt created by my father which would result in losing our home was unavoidable. 

There were moments of relief when my sisters came home so we could share the financial problem of losing our home (due to large debt) together. However, that also meant emotions were high because everyone had to process their own feelings and solve problems in different ways. 

My sisters’ return to share the burden and generosity of a few selective friends helped us during the time of homelessness and that also brought solace. However, a few friends also became ex-friends due to the circumstances. 

However, my relationship with myself was pretty broken and I had no self-belief, I had low self-esteem and I resented my family. 

It was through yoga that I found the truest feeling of comfort, self-compassion, and courage to move forward, grow as a person, and fall back in love with myself and life again.

15% of the improvement was a result of my sisters’ being back at home to share the burden and create some time for myself and 85% was me choosing to dedicate time to myself through yoga practice. Even though I struggled for 4 years, without the struggle, I wouldn’t have appreciated the practice. 

No mud. No lotus. 🙂

Echo Wang

What steps did you take to overcome your struggle?

This is a story about how yoga saved my life so here are the two major components of yoga that helped me. 

1. Slow down the thoughts.

Not that you need to stop doing what’s necessary for survival but slowing down the thoughts and creating space to hear that still small wise voice within.

(This may not be applicable to those who have already been clinically diagnosed with mental illness)

Slowing down was important for me to overcome my struggle. Having had to juggle my academics, my financial problems, my family’s health, my family’s financial problem, my relationship, and my sleep. It was too much. 

I was constantly overwhelmed, overdoing overthinking, and overcomplicating things. I had a foggy brain constantly. I was on autopilot and life was living me. I felt stuck and couldn’t stop and couldn’t be in control. 

In the beginning, I resisted it and thought to myself “How does slowing down and sitting down get anything done?!” 

But it was just the simple 5 to 10-minute resting pose at the end of yoga that gave me many great epiphanies. I still remember one day I walked into a yoga session blaming myself for giving my boyfriend too much pressure and causing him to be unfaithful, which is what he was telling me. 

After an intense hot yoga session and at the resting pose where you just lie down and be with yourself, in that moment, I realized if I had heard my story from a girlfriend I would’ve laughed at how childish the boyfriend was to play the blame game. What happened at that moment was I was able to look at things objectively in my relationship for the first time in 6 years. 

After that, I kept coming to yoga and leveraged that resting time for more momentary meditation, and the rest was history. By slowing my thoughts down which allowed me to see things from a different perspective, I changed the course of my life one little thought at a time. 

Echo Wang

2. Simple 15 minutes of physical exercise. 

I had unbearable tension in my neck and shoulders from sleep deprivation, worrying, studying in bad posture, and working overtime to try to pay off debt. My body felt so locked and stiff from all the tightness, which became mental agitation and anxiety. 

It has been well-researched that physical exercises can release feel-good chemicals that can quickly boost the mood. Yoga was a gentle way to bring lightness and ease into my body which improved my mood

The other aspect is the mind-body connection. Back then it was not clear to me but now it is also very well researched that intense emotions can cause ailments in the body through inflammation and scar tissue. 

And that by working on the body, you can affect your mind and brain through physical exercise. There is also much research that shows physical exercise helps generate new brain cells, and increase memory and focus. 

Being a forgiving codependent person I forget how many times my boyfriend hurt me
emotionally, how many times he used the same excuses, or how painful it is to be in this toxic dynamic. 

Doing the simple exercise from yoga, I slowly gained mental clarity, acuity, and memory. The focus and the memory were crucial for me to remember and connect past events, and to see the toxic pattern with my boyfriend so that I could stop being gaslighted and manipulated by lies. Also, to have the mental strength to remember to hold my boundaries

Have you shared any of this with people around you in real life?

There were few people that I felt comfortable with and one of them was a friend from work. He was who I consider to be so much wiser than me and had to escape WWII with his parents to come to Canada. 

I felt comfortable because he had gone through bigger, more traumatic events than me and survived, therefore, he must have had a lot of wisdom to share with me. Also, it was a world friend who knew I was high-functioning and my work was not affected by all that going through and I was hiding it very well. 

I stopped sharing my struggle with my boyfriend because he was clearly not to be trusted with my feelings since he would say that I gave him too much pressure and tension. 

I couldn’t share with my sisters who were like me to have to work tirelessly to pay for the mortgage and living expenses of our parents. They also suffered great stress from thinking about losing our house. 

It was hard to openly share my struggles with my friends because I didn’t feel belonged when my friends were enjoying university life with zest and eagerness.

They looked like there was so much going for them in life and all I felt like was an old tired person who had to pay down family debt on top of student loans like I have already failed in life. Plus, going out with friends was costly with dinners, birthday parties, birthday gifts, and night socials. 

If you could give a single piece of advice to someone else that struggles, what would that be?

Focus on the relationship with yourself first by nourishing that connection weekly. That’s how you create a strong “core” – a strong sense of being and purpose in life. When you have that relationship, you can ride the ups and downs of life like a roller coaster. 

When you don’t have a relationship with yourself, you will constantly look outside of yourself for answers. Then you become busy checking off other people’s boxes but not yours.

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, YouTube channels, or other resources for you?

Just my relationship with my yoga practice was the most helpful and influential. It was about both the mind and the body. It was at the pace that was for me, chosen by me. 

Where can we go to learn more about you?

You can read more about me on my website, or find me on Instagram, LinkedIn, and Facebook.

Is there anything else you think we should have asked you?

Depending on where they are in the world, there are many who are struggling with depression or anxiety and believe that they need money to get help, like counseling, in their country. 

So they delay the idea of getting help because they want to save up to thousands of dollars because they want to get a consistent and long-term program with counselors or psychotherapists. 

I want to share that you don’t need much money at all to do yoga. You just need to show up to your mat or your sacred space at home or a quiet room to start.

💡 By the way: If you want to start feeling better and more productive, I’ve condensed the information of 100’s of our articles into a 10-step mental health cheat sheet here. 👇

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Hugo Huijer AuthorLinkedIn Logo

Founder of Tracking Happiness, with over 100 interviews and a focus on practical advice, our content extends beyond happiness tracking. Hailing from the Netherlands, I’m a skateboarding enthusiast, marathon runner, and a dedicated data junkie, tracking my happiness for over a decade.

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