How I am Healing My Mind With Yoga
In the last couple months, I have made my way back to my yoga mat.
College and its busy schedule made it difficult for me to sustain a dedicated yoga practice like I once had.
At a few times in my life, yoga was the glue keeping my life together. Yoga literally means union, and it was where I united my body with my mind, my soul with other souls, and my passion with the world. Yoga was where I went when I was sad, happy, excited, tired, annoyed, grateful. I practiced on Christmas Day, Thanksgiving, New Year’s, Halloween, and on my birthday. I drove (kinda far) to get to the studio that felt like home. I took a big sip of air as I let the light in, and let shit go.
Somewhere along the line, as I began teaching more, and the pace of my life picked up, yoga classes became less important, and that is okay. Every season of life has its own plan, and things come and go just like weather.
Last fall I would step on my mat sometimes, sporadically, but yoga didn’t give me the same buzz that it once did.
So I stopped going. Occasionally I would go back for a class but I felt sick in the hot room, and the closed 4 walls began to make me anxious, and being upside down made my head spin. The thing that once brought be immense joy became scary and out of reach.
I started running outside where there was endless amounts of air and I was free, I could breathe.
Running helped with some of my anxiety and my restless energy. It became a new hobby, a new goal. But it created more of the response to flee. To run away from bad things, and to get the heck out.
That was not serving me well. I found myself sitting in class, or at work, ruminating over how I would escape, how I could get some air if I needed to. I wanted to run away all the time.
I began to fear cars, or being in rooms, or literally anything that made me feel trapped. I could feel panic rising in my chest, my heart racing, tightness in my entire body that screamed GET OUT!
I don’t know the origins of these panic attacks and I don’t need all of the answers. Sometimes our minds do funky things to remind us that we need to take care of ourselves in a different way.
On the outside, I was smiling, and laughing, and active, and smart, and functional. And on the inside I was internally screaming, for almost 6 months straight.
As I felt my central nervous system buzz inside me I began to look for answers that might help to calm down the fire that had been burning for months now. Prescription medication, while effective in many cases, was not the answer for me, as it aggravated other physical and mental symptoms that I experience. As lovely as it would be, there is no pill, potion, or cure that makes everything go away.
I was walking one night outside, talking to my boyfriend on the phone, panicking about, well, everything. When we finished talking and hung up, I found myself standing right outside the fitness studio, 15 minutes before restorative yoga started. I had always come up with excuses for myself as to why I couldn’t go to this class, but this time something inside me was urging me to go in.
I nervously went up the stairs, and found my way onto my mat for the first time in a while. I was terrified that I would have a panic attack during the class, and have to leave, and make a big scene. The class consisted of 5-6 long hold of restorative poses, designed to help you surrender and relax. Because there was zero physical challenge, I was able to enter the room and stay with myself and try to breathe through the anxiety that sprung up almost immediately. I asked myself to stay over and over. Even when I thought I couldn’t, I just asked myself to stay. I got through the whole class.
I left that night feeling hopeful, like maybe I had unlocked the door to some more growth, a solution to my intense feeling of stuck-ness.
I resolved to go every Monday, back to my mat, and feel the benefits of a restorative class specifically designed to calm the central nervous system, promote relaxation, and give me a way to feel successful when I actively fought against my anxious nature.
With each week of my summer class, the intensity of the course material increased, and my drive to add more stress (aka run) began to dwindle. Instead, I found myself craving deep breaths on my mat.
I began attending more yoga classes similar to the style I used to love so dearly. The flow of a vinyasa class helps me wring out the pressure and tension in my body. I feel the layers of self protection being peeled away as I stand there, raw, open to all possibilities. Instead of running away from what is happening, I go right in.
Instead of fleeing, I have been feeling. Freeing up space and energy for more love and more light in my life. Letting go of shit that I no longer need to hold on to. Letting the layers of perfectionism and anxieties and obsessions shed. On my mat, with my eyes closed, and my breath in my lungs, I am just simply me.
I have been making the intention of my practice presence. I want to feel the power of actually sitting with my thoughts instead of running away from them. I want my presence to be the reunion of my body and mind, the reunion of my soul with others, and the reunion of my purpose and passion for sharing and giving.
I am allowing my yoga mat to bring me back into my body, in the present moment, allowing my thoughts and emotions to exist, and to carry me through. I have learned that running away doesn’t work for me, because the feelings always come back. Instead of running from everything, I have been practicing staying. It is certainly much harder, but much more rewarding.
If you have never done yoga in your life, I challenge you to give it a try. If you practice all the time, I challenge you to bring a new intention to your practice. And most importantly, choose to stay.
Disclaimer: This is my personal experience, and not a substitute for professional mental health treatment.