Ariel Finds Yoga in Her Journey with Depression
Back in the spring of 2010, I was living in NYC and frequenting the nightlife more than is reasonably acceptable. One Saturday night I was at some “cool” lounge when a fun-looking girl challenged me to a round of stiff shots. Still in the prime of my partying years, I happily accepted.
Now usually when a relationship starts out this way, things get frisky pretty quickly. But this girl had something more to her. She was fun, she was sweet, she was cute… but she was also a little troubled. Perhaps that’s what drew me to Ariel Amateau – she had layers of complexity for me to peel off in order to discover what lied beneath the surface.
We stayed in touch on and off these past six years, but I mostly watched from a distance as she progressively transformed her life. The woman that exists today bares only minimal resemblances to the one I met back in the spring of 2010. But if you think the transformation occurred overnight, nothing could be further from the truth.
In Ariel’s words:
As a kid growing up on Long Island I cut class, cursed, lied, cheated, talked back, resented my siblings and caused a ton of chaos around me. By the time high school rolled around, I couldn’t keep up, and I certainly couldn’t cope. So I dedicated my attention to impressing boys, and with that came indulging in alcohol. Lots of alcohol. As a teenager, I’d black out from drinking. And then I’d cry – a lot. Eventually, an event took place that woke everyone up around me – when I was 16 I was hospitalized for trying to take my own life.
I rarely talk about that because I still have shame around it. The truth is that I so badly wanted to live that it was more of a cry for help than anything else. That event began a cycle of me getting better for a short period before getting worse. While my friends went off to college, I packed my bags for rehab. I moved to Arizona, and then Pennsylvania and then California. Eventually I moved to NYC, where I fell into my last deep depression. I ended up in the hospital, which turned out to be the best thing that could have happened to me.
Like many kids who walk through the doors of western medicine, I was diagnosed, given some meds and told I’d get better. And honestly, I did. By the time I was 24 I moved back home to Long Island and soon thereafter found a job. An actual job. I mean, any job would have sufficed – just to get up, feel like I was a part of something. A part of the world. A part of the living. I could actually accomplish something in my day! After sticking to my meds and reintegrating back into society, I managed to land a great nanny position. That first year of nannying I worked and spent the majority of my free time with my family, as I had fences to mend after neglecting my loved ones for so long.
That entire year, I walked by a yoga studio each and every day. I would look in the window and fantasize about going inside, but I foolishly kept telling myself that I wasn’t ready. I’d taken a couple of yoga classes years prior, and the feelings that I had walking out of that studio stayed with me the entire time. I even had an image of Ganesha hanging in my room years before I began my practice!
One morning it hit me. I’d learned to care for others – the kids that I took care of occupied such a special place in my heart, and my family and I had reconnected. With so much love around me, it was finally time for me to love myself. I looked in the mirror, as well as the digits on my scale. I was over thirty pounds heavier than I’d previously been at any point in my life. I mustered up the courage and I marched into the studio that very day.
That was the first day of my new life.
Shaking, I walked in to the studio and introduced myself. As nervous as I was, I felt an immediate sense of calm. I looked around and knew this was where I needed to be. Not one to test the waters too much before diving in, I decided to go as often as I could for thirty days. I began with five restorative classes for beginners, with a particular emphasis on breathing. I felt something. It was good, so I kept going.
I eventually tried every class that was offered. Within those first thirty days, something shifted in me. Not only did I lose a noticeable amount of weight, but I changed the way I saw the world and the way I spoke to people, and developed a real sense of gratitude for the second chances I’d been given. I also developed a newfound respect for my body.
Three years later, I’ve been able to eliminate most of the meds that I was on. I’ve come a long way from being the girl who was afraid to walk in the studio that I passed each and every day.
Each and every day still requires effort. I’m not done and my journey isn’t complete. The practice of growth, self-improvement, learning and loving is an ongoing one that I’ll carry with me for the rest of my life, so in that sense the journey will never be complete – and I’m immensely thankful for that.
Through the videos and images that I share with people, I hope that you can see not only my personal progress, but the possibilities that exist for anyone who’s willing to dedicate to self-love. If I can do this, so can you.
I’m not some olympic athlete – I simply showed up every day and allowed both my body and mind to heal. With a little perseverance and a will to live, I’m absolutely certain that ANYONE can do what I did.