Anxiety to Zen: An Open Letter to Yoga

Bonnie Schmidt by Bonnie Schmidt | March 18th, 2013 | 2 Comments
topic: Fitness, Personal Growth, Yoga

Yoga saved my life.

Pretty grand statement, I know. And perhaps other people say that, too. I guess depending on where you are in life or what you happen to be going through, there are a lot of things that can save your life. A good book could do it, a sign from the universe or maybe even a strong martini. But when I say that yoga saved my life, I mean it truly came into my life during one of the darkest moments I had ever experienced and gave me back my desire to really live — fully and entirely.

A few years back, I found myself completely paralyzed with anxiety. I couldn’t go to work, drive my car or even leave my house without a potential panic attack. This anxiety made me angry. It made me resentful. But most of all, it made me an entirely different person. I became a shell of what I used to be. A lot of people thought I’d stay that way. Full disclosure: I thought I’d stay that way too.

When I finally found the courage to seek relief, I hit the Internet in search of something that could provide tranquility and peace. I quickly noticed that ‘yoga’ kept popping up in my search results. I had made my way into a yoga studio every now and then, but I never took the time to really mentally connect with the practice. I needed to break down some walls and find myself again, so I signed up for a teacher training and dedicated myself to this new journey.

I found who I really was on that old blue yoga mat in that little studio. Anxiety had created this fear in me of being imperfect, a deep-rooted belief that I wasn’t good enough. It was as though I was an impostor in my very own life! But on my mat I was allowed to make mistakes (evidenced by the small black-and-blue bruise I acquired tumbling out of my first attempt at an arm balance).

I was allowed to relinquish control. I felt euphoric when immersed in a strong vinyasa. I surrendered my mind and trusted the guidance of my breath. Turning off my mind and just moving was a foreign concept to me. For the first time, I was able to really breathe. I was able to feel the freedom of literally (and figuratively!) “going with the flow.”

On that mat, I challenged my boundaries. Instead of shying away from a pose because I was scared of not being able to do it perfectly, I embraced the challenge. I laughed at myself as I worked my way into — and consistently fell out of — Astavakrasana (Eight-Angle Pose), and I embraced the fact that I didn’t have a “perfect” Forward Fold thanks to my tight hamstrings.

In that studio I learned how to speak my mind and honor what made me unique. I practiced Sun Salutations to rock music and created themes for my classes based on poems that I enjoyed reading. The more I got to know myself, the weaker my anxiety became. That fear of being imperfect and inept lost its headlock on me. Every time I stepped on that mat, I left a piece of myself on it. I learned it was okay to make mistakes. I was allowed to try new things, and I wasn’t going to be judged for not being an endless encyclopedia of knowledge. I learned to appreciate my different perspective, and I felt confident to express what I truly felt.

So, when I say that yoga saved my life, I truly mean it. When I unrolled my mat on that first day, I unrolled a whole new path. So thank you, yoga. We’ve had an enlightening journey so far together. I owe who I am today to you. I can’t wait to see what’s next.


  1. I commend you for finding the courage to take that first step:) Great work and here you are today sharing hope with others. What a journey! Namaste.

    pooja joshi | March 19th, 2013 | Comment Permalink
  2. I have had a similar experience and can completely relate to the outlet that yoga can be… beautiful phrasing.. I too have had a battle with anxiety, rooted deep in family problems, and have had a struggle with over control and letting go. “Every time I stepped on that mat, I left a piece of myself on it”. Thank you for your words.

    jessica | April 1st, 2013 | Comment Permalink

Post a Comment

If you want to show your picture with your comment, go get a gravatar!