I believe I started experiencing anxiety and depression in my teens, but had such little self awareness, I'm not sure I even knew. It was really in college and post college that I self diagnosed myself with depression and "panic attacks" and started taking antidepressant medication, which had a whole world of side effects. I was nervous about starting Bikram Yoga because I feared having a panic attack in class. However, with the support of my friend Michelle, I started taking classes. Immediately I started feeling better. I worked at a very stressful job at the time, and I would take the 4:30pm class at the end of the day. After class, I felt great! I no longer had to go home and cry myself to sleep or self medicate. For the first time I was really experiencing happiness and deep and love and gratitude for the yoga. This love and gratitude has only grown stronger over the years. Currently, as an athlete and yoga competitor, yoga helps me deal with performance anxiety as well. It's kind of funny that my sport is yoga and that I get anxious about doing yoga on stage. I remind myself that the postures are relaxing and therapeutic, always, ESPECIALLY when I'm on stage. Some days I still get depressed. It can be difficult to motivate to do anything, but I usually look forward to yoga class; even when I'm depressed. Maybe it's because I know it will make me feel better. When I walk in the doors of the studio, the vibe of the people instantly make me feel happy. It's contagious. If I'm having a hard day, there is always a shoulder to cry on or someone that is happy to listen to me. I'm so touched by the individuals from this community that have reached out to me when they see me struggling. They know who they are... Yoga friends are the BEST! The system of Bikram postures are really quite miraculous as well. The poses stretch and compress nerves, muscles, organs and glands, and helps to regulate the endocrine system in the body, which is responsible for hormone release. So not only do you feel better from exercising and having more oxygen in your body and brain, but also you have literally balanced your hormones, while releasing natural endorphins in to your system. It's fascinating! I'm grateful to Cameron Gallagher for encouraging us all to SPEAK UP about anxiety and depression and erase the stigmas associated. I feel a special connection to this girl and her powerful message, and to her aunt Clair Norman, who introduced me to this organization. I'm grateful to the Bikram Yoga worldwide community and BYR for being such a supportive and encouraging group of people. I want people at BYR to feel good speaking up about who they are, every aspect of themselves! We love it and think it's interesting when people do!