Yoga and Anxiety

The Doctor said, “Yoga will help reduce stress” to the patient with social anxiety.

25 years later, I might finally agree.

Are you like me, with not one, but three prescribed anxiety drugs? Does the concept of leaving your house make you wish for death in lieu of leaving? Do you make hermits look like they have a social life? Have you gone more than three months without leaving your house and consider it a success? Even if you haven’t checked all those boxes, anxiety prevents a lot of us from trying new things, and it is never a competition to see who needs the extra Lorazepam.

For years, doctors, friends, my children, ex-husband, and a handful of other well-wishers pushed/suggested that I try yoga to reduce my stress. None of them seemed to understand that the thought of going to a new place, being around a bunch of new people, and the drive there itself basically made me want to flee.

Some of this anxiety stemmed from years of trying gyms to get in shape. Each time, it went so very wrong: at 19, senior ladies at the pool yelled at me for “splashing” while swimming laps; in my early 30s, someone told me, “I used to be fat too, but you can do it. I did;” another time, I entered the track, and even though no one else was there, four non-employees jumped all over me to tell me I was jogging in the wrong direction. My sister’s advice that, “People are focused on their own work-out; they aren’t looking at you,” did not seem to be the case for me.

Within the last two years, I am finally starting to see the benefits of yoga and concede that people weren’t trying to cause me pain.

The first step was with Rachel Van Sickle; yes, that same roaming yogi who, if she likes this heartfelt rant will post it for everyone who follows Point Bliss Yoga Studio, happens to be my older sister. Yes, I am that lucky.

Before she became your Yoda Nidra master, I roped her into doing a home session for my daughter and me. My goal for that was to get my daughter to calm during school. She may have growled at a teacher. After the session, I was sore for days, because unlike Rachel I am very out of shape. I am basically her complete opposite. Like my daughter, I might growl at people. Jokes aside, the home session allowed me a safe space to try yoga, and a nudge that OK, this isn’t bad.

Next, Rachel bought me a "Yoga for Everyone" session at a local studio to guilt me into trying again. I know, be sure to judge Rachel for her nefarious plotting.

The workshop was with Heather MK - All Access. Heather and Rachel were the only ones in the room, so I ended up with two very kind, patient people who had been doing yoga since Buddha was a baby. I know, hard to believe since Rachel isn’t a day over 27, but for the progression of story it is all very true.

Heather and Rachel both helped me overcome the dreaded anxiety. A large part of it, yes, was the one-on-one, but mostly it was how Heather and Rachel taught me. I have had some major injuries on top of my anxiety, so that was also a barrier. Rachel and Heather urged, “If it hurts stop doing.”

Heather helped me with adjustments for my knees, back, and my hips and told me to always speak up in class. Since I am not considered old by visual assessment, many may not realize that I need joint help due to genetics and a history of injuries. I had HATED yoga in the past because I was never offered props and adjustments. With these tools, I am all for the yoga journey and find enjoyment in it.

The doctors were right... after my yoga session with Heather, my back and hips felt better for days. Without the aided cushion and adjustments for my injuries, the session would have caused me more stress and reaffirmed that I was no yogi.

When you finally try yoga, text, email, or get to the studio early to discuss your needs with the teacher. I promise it helps both reduce stress and allows the teacher to give you the tools you need.

I am still overcoming past awful experiences in gym settings. No matter how well I am taught, it will be a struggle to take off my turtle suit and continue the journey. I feel better with yoga, though, because it's not about judgment and weight loss. Yoga is entirely a self-paced journey to help you feel better.

My advice to you is, if you find one yogi to be a bore or happen upon a bad teacher, don't let it stop your journey. You kick that Yogi to Ranger Smith for stealing your picni... I mean, find your zen and continue with someone who is more compassionate or even just more fun.

I know Rachel will entice me out once again. It has taken eight months since my last attempt, but I am willing to journey to some "Baby Yoda" Nidra or any other fun theme session she cooks up.

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