Charting a Better Course

It’s June, summer nears, and I passed a significant anniversary date on May 31st that was the beginning of something big. Yoga. A lot of people take up yoga to some extent or another, but my story also explores the indirect benefits that include my writing.

The context matters. I left my part-time job in March of 2020 and entered almost total isolation thanks to, you guessed it, the pandemic. I live alone. Both of my cats had passed. My lone excursions were to purchase groceries before sunrise. I rearranged my apartment. I deep cleaned. I wandered—a lot.

Then, depression hit. The weather was poor so it was difficult to take walks. I was seeing a counselor at the time via video, but it was increasingly clear her idea of helping me was to simply show up. I’m not one for passive self-help The one counselor I’ve ever connected with was Don and he had the same attitude. He’s also, now, distant.

But, as it turned out, he’s in my head.

Anyway, I was desperate in April of 2020. Like, scared desperate. Like I was tumbling down the rabbit hole to the bad place. During sessions I’d weep and rant and—nothing. No change to my care. After a session in late May, I knew—I knew!—I was at a tipping point.

August 2020. Photo: CA Hawthorne

Then, the thought that changed everything. “What would Don encourage me to do?”

He’d guide me to finding my own solutions, that’s what!

I watched self-help videos and mentioned my efforts to my counselor. There was mild surprise, but nothing else. On May 31st I began yoga with an introductory video on YouTube, the channel being Yoga with Adrien.

My expectations going in were minimal. At my age, I hoped to increase my flexibility a little and feel better about myself. Of course, it was my mental health I was most concerned about. I hoped the meditative aspects of yoga would spill over and aid me in returning to meditation, which I’d gotten away from.

What I got was sooo much more.

After one year my flexibility is far greater than what I’d hoped for. I learned pretty quick that my severely damaged lungs were a hinderance to keeping up with flow yoga, but my focus was on flexibility and mental health, anyway, so I wasn’t concerned. I learned asanas and then practiced them at my pace.

All that spilled over into other areas of my life at a frantic pace. I’d taken control of my mental health and it felt great (I eventually ended my relationship with my counselor)! Yoga was the beginning of a shift to wholeness. It isn’t perfect, but my self-awareness heightened. It’s also evolved to include a greater focus on purpose that further boosts my more proactive approach to my mental health and my life in general.

There’s a sense that I’m now in greater control. Control, though, doesn’t mean that I don’t have days when I struggle or am confronted with an unexpected crisis. That’s life. It happens. What’s different is that I now have my own way of dealing with it. I’m more aware of my strengths and weaknesses.

The area of my life that has most benefited has been writing. It’s a part of my wholeness, a piece of my mental health plan. It’s also my purpose, the star by which I steer. My productivity has soared, whether I’m drafting or revising. I’m sometimes asked how I can stand to put in so many hours each day on some aspect of writing.

Simple. It’s my purpose. When it’s your purpose it isn’t work or labor. Instead, the effort brings great joy. It’s a perception change that I’ll blog more about one day soon.

Cover: CA Hawthorne

When you’re closer to whole your creativity thrives and that’s been the case for me. Last autumn, I drafted Case of the Deadly Stroll, which brought together my new attitudes, witchcraft from my worldbuilding, and yoga. After all, I tend to write heroines who, in addition to overcoming external obstacles, also must overcome internal ones.

In Deadly Stroll, Talma Loyal’s neighbor is the one responsible for developing what we’d call yoga, but unlike the origins we know, they’re different in Pannulus. Reluctant, she agrees to try a class along with a reporter (this is first draft stuff)…

What a surprise to discover she was more flexible than most. In a sense, she was only a year old. She hadn’t existed long enough to become stiff.

“All right, everyone, clasp your hands before you in a prayer-like manner. Next, raise your hands straight up above your head and say, Ilyana Pneuma … hear my call. It’s a variation on what witches do. After, you’ll brings your arms out wide and you’ll have done your first stretch.”

She brought her hands up like everyone else. Like everyone else. What an exciting thought.

“Okay, everyone, together.”

All hands raised. The words were spoken again. As before, hands were spread wide. Unlike before, an aura formed around each person. Mild gasps and a few giggles sounded around the room.

May 30, 2021. Photo: CA Hawthorne

Some element of yoga (ilyana pneuma) has surfaced in other places, too, which is fun. Riparia does breathing exercises to ease her anxiety in Trust in the Forgotten. The moment already existed, but I enhanced it this year when I revised. Last month, I drafted Following the Essence Stone and created a slightly different version called Awafla that Ametha performs, its origins from the ora’ean homeland of Forstava.

Most important, though, is that yoga was a gateway when I needed it, a first step towards better managing my anxiety and depression. In the bigger picture these days it’s another tool, but a critical one. I think of it as a foundation Anyone who’s suffered from depression knows the unfortunate twist that makes depression feel like a friend (a friend who lies). Yoga and meditation has taken on that role instead.

Where once depression whispered to me that I needed nothing but it, yoga whispers to me that I need my purpose.

About Christina Anne Hawthorne

Alive and well in the Rocky Mountains. I'm a fantasy writer who also dabbles in poetry, short stories, and map making. My Ontyre tales are an alternative fantasy experience, the stories rich in mystery, adventure, and romance. Alternative fantasy? Not quite steampunk. Not quite gothic. In truth, the real magic is in those who discover what's within.
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