Mental health has always been a seemingly taboo topic in terms of acknowledgment, discussion, and therapy. Even now, I struggle to piece together words to help you understand my personal experiences with it. I grew up in a South-Asian family that heavily emphasized academic excellence above all else, so coming to terms with my mental health posed an even bigger obstacle for me than expected. As someone who has always prided myself on being an over-achiever and has found success as a result of hard work in my adolescence, clinical depression and high-functioning anxiety hit me like a ton of bricks in my first year of university. As a dancer of over 20 years, I see movement as my main source of stress relief but as dance shifted from a simple hobby to an important responsibility and occupation in my life, I found myself falling out of love with the art of dance and sinking deeper into depression. It began to take a toll on my academic life and my personal relationships. Having recently jumpstarted a career in empowerment and activism, I felt as though I was letting down both myself and my community. I was expected to inspire people and to act as a catalyst for positive change in society, yet I was unable motivate myself on the same level – living in fear of this kind of failure made my anxiety skyrocket to new heights. I was in need of a new outlet; something that would benefit my body and spirit physically, mentally and emotionally, something that would allow me to channel the negative energy surrounding me into something productive and positive, something that could re-ignite my passion for life. I needed to be stronger.
Harman Baweja has been both a close friend and a mentor to me in dance and life for ten years now. He introduced me to YEG Cycle in January 2016, after revealing to our dance community that he had spent the past eight weeks training to become a motivator. I attended his “Friends and Family” trial class and was instantly hooked. After confiding in him about my ongoing struggles with depression and anxiety attacks, he encouraged me to apply for a front-desk position with YEG Cycle so I could experience a change in scenery and work-place dynamic in addition to meeting a new network of fitness-forward individuals and of course, for the spin perks. This leap into the world of fitness and positivity gave me confidence that I had only ever felt while being onstage. I found myself immersed in this community of beautiful, motivated people who would hop on the bike not only to stay healthy, but also to motivate the people around them. I found myself entering this room of 42 bikes, flashing lights and pumping music with no expectations each day and leaving feeling refreshed and ready to take on the world. People close to me saw a difference in me not only physically but mentally; I was able to overcome obstacles and deal with life's curveballs in ways that didn't involve me isolating myself or cracking under the pressure.
When I clip in, the only person I have to impress is the incredibly strong and resilient woman looking back at me in the mirror. The bike has given me the opportunity to sweat out my doubt, ride through my fears, crush goals that I never thought I could set in the first place and to emerge into the world as the best version of myself. YEG Cycle is special, plain and simple. The buzz of new riders expressing their nerves entering their first class, the triumphant cheers after completing that seemingly impossible six minute weight track, the sense of accomplishment after FINALLY receiving that 50 class water bottle, the sea of bodies pumping and dipping in unison - this experience is unmatched. YEG Cycle has taught me the importance of SHOWING up in my life and I can happily say that spin, along with other coping mechanisms, has allowed me to finally come to terms with/conquer/manage my anxiety and depression. I will forever be indebted to the motivators who have consistently challenged me to reach my potential, for the crew and Bikergang who have become family, for the key leaders and manager for supporting me through my ongoing struggles with mental health and of course, to the stationary bike for giving me a new opportunity to shine and grind each and every day. You want MY advice on how to de-stress and grab mental health stigmas by the handlebars? Let go of your inhibitions, take a deep breath, leave your troubles at the door and just RIDE. I am stronger than yesterday, I am seizing opportunity today and I am ready for tomorrow.
Love always & love all ways.