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Anxiety to Zen: An Open Letter to Yoga

Posted By Bonnie Schmidt On March 18, 2013 @ 4:23 pm In Fitness, Personal Growth, Yoga | 2 Comments


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 [2] 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 [3]. I couldn’t go to work, drive my car or even leave my house without a potential panic attack [4]. 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 [5] and dedicated myself to this new journey.

I found who I really was on that old blue yoga mat [6] in that little studio. Anxiety had created this fear in me of being imperfect [7], 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 [8]. 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 [9] (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 [10] 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 [11]. 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.

Article printed from Gaiam Blog: http://blog.gaiam.com

URL to article: http://blog.gaiam.com/anxiety-to-zen-an-open-letter-to-yoga/

URLs in this post:

[1] Image: http://blog.gaiam.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/anxiety-to-zen.jpg

[2] yoga: http://www.gaiam.com/yoga/3010000,default,sc.html?code=WG137SPRTAPEMACS&extcmp=life_prod

[3] paralyzed with anxiety: http://www.gaiamtv.com/tv/status-anxiety?chan=GaiamLife&utm_source=GaiamLife&utm_medium=Web&utm_campaign=10day

[4] panic attack: http://life.gaiam.com/article/6-alternative-treatments-anxiety-and-panic-attacks

[5] teacher training: http://blog.gaiam.com/blog/4-tips-for-a-yoga-teacher-in-training/

[6] yoga mat: http://www.gaiam.com/yoga/mats/3010400,default,sc.html?code=WG137SPRTAPEMACS&extcmp=life_prod

[7] imperfect: http://life.gaiam.com/article/culture-perfection

[8] breath: http://www.gaiamtv.com/video/transformational-breathing-judith-kravitz?chan=GaiamLife&utm_source=GaiamLife&utm_medium=Web&utm_campaign=10day

[9] Astavakrasana: http://www.yogajournal.com/practice/171

[10] Sun Salutations: http://life.gaiam.com/video/sun-salutation-how-rodney-yees-yoga-beginners

[11] yoga: http://life.gaiam.com/guides/yoga-answers-and-solutions-go-guide

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