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.