Yoga and My Anxiety: I’m winning the fight

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Having anxiety is like living with a little creature in your head that tells you to freak out. It’s the same little creature that makes your heart race, even though your heart knows better. It’s the same one that makes you sweat, that makes it hard to breathe under a stressful circumstance.

For me, this little creature is most active in the morning. I wake up with utter fear that I will be late for work, that I will forget my yogurt or that I will misplace my wallet. None of these situations matter in the long run, but this stupid little creature doesn’t allow me to see that.

My anxiety is stemmed from the constant pressures of trying to be better – a test I’ve given myself since day one. Be a better saver, a better girlfriend, a better employee, a better writer, a better reader, a better cleaner, a better daughter.

I’ve thankfully been able to manage some of my anxiety by pushing negative, fearful thoughts from my brain and focusing on what really matters. I give myself a certain time limit to be upset about something before I must find the good and move on.

However, sometimes, this can be hard. Well, most times.

I am not one for resolutions, but I am one for setting goals. A goal I’ve given myself this year is to do more yoga. I used to do so much yoga when I was in university, when doing my post-grad. I used to go to hot yoga classes and spend Saturday mornings doing power vinyasa classes. This yoga ordeal made me feel strong, elegant, fit and peaceful all at the same time. It calmed my brain and filled my heart. It strengthened my entire body and made me feel lighter with each step, in all senses of that statement (weight and stress).

The best way I can describe the feeling is this: It’s like when you go for a massage and when you leave, your back feels strong and stretched. You feel like you can breathe all the way in and exhale out all toxins; you feel like you can be there for yourself and for the others who need you to be there for them.

I’ve missed this feeling: The feeling of listening to a song you haven’t heard in forever, but passionately singing all the words.

With a clear head, the music sounds better. You feel stronger.

I have been dealing with a wrist injury, preventing me from actively practicing. After a few months of physiotherapy, wearing a splint and taking anti-inflammatory medication, my wrist is sorta, kinda better. It’s not 100 per cent, but it’s getting there.

Mid-January, I switched my daily workout routine of high impact cardio and strength training to power yoga with additional strength exercises. My goal was to switch things up, which is important in any workout regime, strengthen my wrist and bring peace back into my mind and heart; continuing to battle against that little creature I call anxiety.

Exercising in general reduces the anxiety I experience in a day; I can feel the stress literally evaporate like the sweat on my skin when I run really fast or finish a set of jump squats. Yoga does the same, but in a different way.

Let me explain.

Yoga lets me focus. I have no number in my head telling me how many bicep curls I’ve got left. I have no timer, ticking down the final, exhausting minute of an interval on the treadmill. Instead, I have a drishti, letting me focus on one thing during each posture. I can pick an intention for practice that is meaningful to me – it has nothing to do with completing a series of lunges, but more so how I want to feel when I’m done the yoga class and how I want to feel throughout the rest of my day.

Yoga moves my body, strengthens my core and lengthens my muscles all while getting my mind to zone in on only what I am doing in that moment. Warrior two, lizard, half moon.

Yoga opens up my stress points. It allows me to stretch out my hips, lengthen the space between my shoulders. I can mentally picture the negative energy wasting away into the space around me.

Yoga calms my mind, it calms my insides.

Sure, some days, I really just want to run fast or focus on a specific area of my body. I make time for that, too. However, in just two weeks of reuniting myself with yoga, I noticed improved productivity in each day, more smiles streaming across my face and literally less bloating. I say “literally” because I am always bloated and now, I feel more clean. Perhaps it’s that my focal points have altered, but for me, even that’s enough.

Each person is different, as is every body, but for me, reuniting myself with yoga practice has been the best decision I’ve made in a while. It allows me to focus on the good, even in a hurricane of bad moments.

Yoga ensures I spend more of each day as me and less as my person invaded by an unwelcome creature.

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