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How Yoga Helps Me Manage Anxiety

Let’s start out with this:  I’m not a coordinated, athletic person.  Never have been.  Highly doubt I ever will be.  And that’s ok.  Yoga is a main part of “why.”

I’m also a person with anxiety.  I like trying new things, but I have to be super-prepared.  I’m OCD, want to research every option before making a decision, and don’t like being embarrassed.

I went to yoga on a whim.  I’d been trying different activities – trying to find something I liked.  I felt like I wasn’t active, fit, or healthy enough – especially comparing myself to my husband, a rugby player.

Going to the gym made me self-conscious, even if everyone was helpful and supportive.  Trying a personal training session?  Better on the self-consciousness side – but not being able to move for a week was a deterrent.  Running was getting closer still.  By myself, with my own thoughts.  And I still do try to do this every once in a while, but as my normal workout?  Not quite there.

As I was driving home one day, I was looking at all the little, local shops in our little town that I hadn’t visited yet.  I was making mental notes of gifts I needed to buy for Christmas and where to pick them up, when a turquoise-blue awning caught my eye:  Blue Yoga Nyla.  I’d never heard of it before (apparently it had been there for years.  Oops.)

I looked it up that night.  I read through the class descriptions and teacher bios and they didn’t sound terrible.  I decided to try an easier one the next morning, called Sugar.  I got clothes and my yoga mat ready that night.

I walked in about 10 minutes before class was meant to start.  There were some students set up already – just relaxing on their mats.  I took off my shoes and chose a corner to set up in, thinking to myself “I’ll just see what it’s like.”  Students kept coming in – the place was getting fairly full of thirty, forty, and fifty-something girls, quite a few guys, one pregnant woman – the whole spectrum.

From the first moment the teacher spoke, I was hooked.  She was funny, called people by their names, welcomed all new students, and then said exactly what I needed to hear:  “This is your practice.  Do what you can; don’t compare yourself.  Listen to your body, and focus on what YOU need from this class and yoga.”

The class wasn’t too hard.  Lots of stretching, smooth movements, and music, with the instructor correcting and helping each of us through.  It was wonderful.

My next class was harder.  The even-slightly more confident me was excited and willing to try it all – the strength poses, odd stretching positions.  The next instructor was even better (she would be my favorite throughout the time I spent there).   It was fun – a learning experience that was helping my body – win win!!

I’m not saying it was always easy.  The warm yoga classes would cause sweat to drip in my eyes (for some reason, I’d never remember a headband).  I’d have sore muscles that didn’t even exist in mind before the class.  I wasn’t always excited about it – sometimes (on sore days) my mind would battle itself – get rid of soreness the easy, but long way (curling up with tea and a book) or the faster, harder way by stretching and working through it.

Every time, however, the instructors and fellow students were no less that supportive, kind, and funny.  No matter how hard the class or how well I did in my mind, I was always proud of myself.  And being proud of myself?  A pretty big accomplishment in itself.

And every day I went to a yoga class, or practiced some stretching and deep breathing at home, my anxiety and stress levels were better.  I noticed it, my husband noticed it – I’m pretty sure the dog even did…

What I even found was that the more comfortable I got with the practice of yoga, the more I could use its methods in other aspects of my life.  Hard meeting at work?  Take two deep breaths and focus on the goal of the meeting.  Getting motion sickness in the car?  Take a deep breath and stretch my arms and legs to get my mind off it.  Can’t turn my mind off to sleep?  Stretch the muscles starting at the toes and move up the body to relax.  When my husband and I found out we were switching military bases in a couple months?  We made a list of of the “To-Do’s” and then went to a slow yoga class to get rid of some the stress and tension.

I’ve been practicing for months now.  I’m more flexible, feel better, and the poses are easier to recognize and work with.  But what I find more incredible is that my mind is calmer.  I can focus at work easier.  Tough conversations are not as over-whelming.  Life is just a tiny bit more manageable.

I can honestly say that yoga has changed how I view and deal with my anxiety and stress.  And that?  That changes your life.

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8 thoughts on “How Yoga Helps Me Manage Anxiety”

  1. I am an anxiety filled person and I have always been very anxious when it comes to taking new classes, or going somewhere I don’t know, especially in a room full of strangers. But I have been thinking of going to try out yoga for a while now … maybe I will soon. Thanks for sharing! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I hope you do! It’s definitely helped me! A couple of the studios I’ve visited are open for a half-hour or so before each class – so if you find one you’d like to try, you could chat with the instructor a bit beforehand. Every instructor I’ve met has been very friendly and makes me feel much more comfortable 🙂 Let me know how it goes, or if you find a studio you like!! I’m cheering you on!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Great to read this, I have very similar experiences with yoga, it teaches me to be much more mindful and also more compassionate towards myself. Now, I’m a yoga teacher and I hope to share this feeling with others, to guide every single person through the process and help them discover what they need… So I’m curious, which elements of yoga are most helpful to you? What particular parts of a class or a teacher have made a difference for you?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh congratulations on becoming a teacher! It’s not an easy process from what I’ve heard!

      And, where to begin? Probably the most helpful have been the breathing techniques. A couple of instructors that I’ve really enjoyed are always reminding the classes to focus on breathing. If the stretch is deep or harder? Keep breathing. If you’re pushing through a warm, movement-filled class and sweat’s running off you? Focusing on your breathing makes it more bearable.

      Also, I had two instructors that really made me feel very comfortable. They talk to everyone and learn names and different things about you. It entirely made me feel like I was part of the group, instead of a random person dropping into a class of regulars. They’d also make light jokes during the worst/hardest parts of the classes to keep us from getting frustrated with ourselves. One of them would do random Disney music nights to demonstrate how different things may factor into your self-care routines and help your emotional state. They kept it light and fun. I’m not sure how big your classes are and if you’re able to do anything like that, but they made a difference for me (definitely as a newbie!!)

      I hope this helps! Let me know how teaching goes!! And if you have any advice for me for practice, let me know! I’ll be checking out your posts!!

      Like

      1. Thanks, this is very helpful indeed! It’s what I’ve learned during my teacher training: to always pay attention to each individual in the class, be there with a smile on your face, not just give instructions but really feel what the students need. Great to hear you have these teachers who manage to make you feel this way! Enjoy your yoga and have a lovely day 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I can relate to a lot of what you’ve written. We share a lot of common experiences. I also recently started taking up yoga. I was also very anxious about starting yoga but I’m really glad I did. The yoga community is so inclusive and the people I’ve met so far are quite supportive. I look forward to reading more about your yoga journey 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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