On anxiety and yoga

I am an anxious person. I wish I wasn’t, but the truth is I worry about everything. I worry about things before they happen, as they’re happening, and after they’ve happened. I worry about things that will never happen. Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night worrying. Other times I can’t sleep at all because I’m worrying. I make people text me when they get home. I check all my doors twice. I take Ativan when it all gets to be a bit too much.

For the longest time I accepted my anxiety as just part of who I was. I’m a worrier! I’d say. I come from a family of worriers! It’s in my blood! But last year I started getting sick of my anxiety. I wanted to go one day without imagining the worst possible thing was going to happen. I wanted to embrace this care free spirit I knew was inside of me. I wanted to take chances without fear of retribution. I wanted to sleep better at night and worry less.

When I started practicing yoga, I had no idea how powerful it would be in reducing my anxiety. As soon as I enter the studio or hit the mat, I immediately feel like I am in my happy place and a calmness washes over me. I feel safe. I feel focused. I feel like I can breathe. Yoga came to me and handed me a sword and said here, take this, it will change you. The practice is all about managing your breath after all, and essentially so is anxiety. Yoga has actually taught me how to breathe, how to close my eyes for a few seconds and concentrate only on my breath, on the feeling of my chest rising and falling. It has taught me how to slow down.

Slowing down is a problem when you have anxiety because you always feel like you could/should be doing something else. It can be incredibly hard and sometimes impossible to relax. I was a bad relaxer for a really long time, but lately this is improving. I’m learning how to binge watch shows on Netflix, which for many is probably a bad thing but for me means I’ve learned how to calm my mind down enough to sit still for a few hours. Finding stillness has become important to me and I often set this as my intention in yoga, to be still. To be present.

Improving anxiety takes work. A lot of work. Yoga isn’t the only way I’m going to beat this, but the role it has played in helping me manage my anxiety is nothing short of amazing. Yoga has helped me find a stillness I didn’t know was inside of me, a stillness I was afraid to embrace before. But now that I know it’s there, I cherish it. And when my anxiety gets bad, I know I can always rely on my mat to help bring me back to my breath, and back in the moment.

This post was inspired by #BellLetsTalk day, which seeks to help end the stigma surrounding mental illness. 

Image: © Sculpies | Dreamstime.com

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