Yesterday, I wrote about how I felt like I was cracking up due to my nighttime anxieties. Trying never to give in and dwell on the negative, I decided I needed to do something about it.
So I picked the most cliché thing possible- I tried yoga for the first time!
Cliché or not, it was well worth it.
I’ve owned two yoga mats in my life and have never actually done yoga. Thanks to my friend Jordan, I finally got the push in the tush I needed to go.
We went to the donation-based Black Swan Yoga on 5th Street. The moment I walked in, I was struck at how peaceful and positive the atmosphere was. I’m not sure why this surprised me. It’s not like they play death metal and talk about cutting yourself at yoga. Everyone was so friendly and not in an over-the-top kind of way. Like a pull you in and hug you and make you feel all warm and gushy kind of way.
I sat down and was instantly struck by the fear that my feet might stink, but when I realized that yoga is not about being self-conscious, I let myself go.
I immediately gave myself over to it. I was ready to go there.
We did Vinyasa yoga. I’m not sure where this falls in terms of easy, medium or hard, but I was able to keep up with the help of Jordan explaining to me what certain poses were (who would have thought that Down Dog meant stick your butt in the air? Down Dog sounds more like flapping down on your stomach, splaying your arms and legs out and waiting for the instructor to come by and give you a treat).
I began sweating like a cow in heat and at one point almost passed out due to the fact that I a.) only had coffee, sparkling wine and no food in my stomach and b.) haven’t exercised since I was a 19.
At the end, as I laid on the mat, the instructor telling us to breath in and out and focus on what is in your mind, none of the thoughts of fear and anxiety came to mind. Instead I thought of the letters my Mom wrote on my napkins every day for elementary school lunch, the excitement I felt when I would see her fluid, pretty handwriting and the notes of encouragement and hope and love. I thought about the occasional text, email, phone message from my father saying that the best times in his life have always been with me, that I’m his adventure partner and our future holds so many more discoveries together. I though about my grandmother, my image of class and beauty. I thought about the smile of my boyfriend, the look of pride and supports he gives me every day. I thought about laying on Venice Beach alone at night. I wasn’t looking at the ceiling of the yoga studio, but of the stars. The ambient music became the waves and gulls. Alone on the beach has always been my “happy place”. It was then my warm tears started to intertwine with my sweat and I just let them run freely.
It was exactly what I needed.
It’s midnight and the anxiety I’ve been feeling at this time the past nights is smaller. I’ve regained a bit of my strength. Maybe going to yoga was only a placebo, but I always underestimate the power of physical exertion.
I’ll report back to you in the morning about how I slept through the night…
Next day: It took me awhile to get to sleep- I had a lot of energy from doing yoga. I danced around the living room to Arcade Fire (specifically trying to dance like Regine from the “Sprawl II” music video) for about a half an hour before settling down to read Stephen King’s “On Writing”. I got the best night of sleep I’ve gotten in awhile. I still had to take a sleeping pill out of fear I would wake up at 4AM, but I didn’t wake up every hour like I have been.
I decided to buy the current Living Social deal for one month of Barre or yoga classes. I really enjoy Barre but can’t afford the classes. The current deal is $59 for one month unlimited plus one month membership at Fitness 360 at the Triangle. If you haven’t tried Barre, I recommend it. It’s yoga, ballet and pilates rolled into one! It’s intense, but you feel amazing afterwards. Click here for the deal.
I’m also looking forward to attending more classes at Black Swan.
I’m glad it helped! I know that it always helps me when I actually make it to class.
Here’s a random fun fact about yoga – the inverted poses (anytime when your head is below your waist) actually give you energy! So, if you are cranky or tired, doing a couple toe touches and a down dog can help. 🙂
That is interesting! I’m going to do that more often! Thanks!
So glad you found yoga, forget the sceptics, it really is one of the most amazing activities. Hope you keep at it!
Do a lot of people poo-poo on yoga?
there ya go! that’s what i meant about finding a coping mechanism… exercise always always cures my anxieties. if i go for a long, hard ass run, i am too exhausted to stay up all night freaking out about the unknowns. works like a charm. glad yoga worked for you. i think yoga is great, i just haven’t found one i feel comfortable at (here is my latest yoga experience:
i will just have to keep looking….
Ha! Loved your post! I can just picture the sort of weird yoga dude you were describing. I can’t wait to do yoga again, but I think I’ll stick to solo yoga.
As someone who has dealt with severe, crippling anxiety and the hyper-focus you mentioned, I know you’ll find your way through this. The two things that got me through the darkest times in my life were: rediscovering exercise (long walks, yoga, eventually running), and learning to be present in the moment and smile (this is something I continue to learn day by day).
You have sleeping pills; I had beta-blockers (the things they prescribe to older folks with high blood pressure that also work as anxiolytics). I took myself off of those–they didn’t cause major side effects like I’ve heard antidepressants do; I just hate the idea of being on medication. But just knowing they were there helped me tremendously. Knowing I didn’t need a pill, but that they were there just in case, allowed me to sleep or just make it through the day. But exercise above all–steady, non-strenuous exercise at first was key for me–made a night-and-day difference for me.
I hope you sleep well.
Hi Gordon! I was on Zoloft years ago for a year. It was way too strong for me. It got me through a tough time (being a personal assistant in LA), but I decided it was too much for me. Even now when I get these episodes of anxiety (and minor panic attacks), I’m still not sure I want to go back to Zoloft. So I drink instead. Kidding.
I’ve always gone through cycles of misfit sleeping/not sleeping.
Much of it usually owes to the amount of stress I’m dealing with, but getting 1.5 hours of sleep in a 4 day stretch doesn’t exactly enhance serenity.
I don’t practice yoga per se but do practice a stretching routine that I picked up years ago when going to a massotherapist for my back injury.
Good to read you’re at least giving yoga a chance.
1.5 hours in 4 days?! Oy vey! I notice that the more stressed I am, the more likely I am to wake up a lot. When I’m awake I worry about someone breaking in. So it’s stress upon stresss.
Blissed-out tears streaming down my face during savasana happens to me a lot, especially if I’ve had a lot on my plate or life’s just been hard.
It’s how I know the yoga’s working.
Glad you found peace in it, keep it up. Loved this post, you’re writing awesome stuff this week 🙂
Thanks, Elisa! Which one is savasana yoga? Maybe I need to try that too!
I love doing yoga, it’s always wonderful the way I feel afterwards. And thanks to Netflix, with soooo many different shows available, it never gets bored!
You watch Netflix while you do yoga?
Great post and hooray for yoga! I went sporadically for years before I started a more serious study of the practice. I kept going back because I felt so peaceful afterwards. Sometimes the peace would carry me into the next day or two and it was the only intervention with long-lasting effects for my depression and anxiety. Now, I know that that peace is a very intentional side effect. When we stop and breathe and connect to our inner landscape, good stuff happens. It is so much more than just physical exercise. If you’re ever interested in learning more, I love the book, “Bringing Yoga to Life” by Donna Farhi. She breaks down the components of yoga in an accessible and knowledgeable way. (I read this for the Dharma Yoga teaching training program I just completed.)
And if you go back to BSY, check out Lilyana, Leeah or Hilly – they are my fave teachers.
And savasana is corpse pose or that final pose you were in when you cried. One of my teachers describes the rest of the practice as mixing all the ingredients for a cake and savansana is putting it in the oven and letting it bake. 🙂
Great article about using yoga to relieve your stress and anxiety.
It was great to read this…this was almost identical to my first class in Dallas on Tues. I started Barre about a week ago…The Yoga really whipped my butt. I cried during the corpse & when I got in my car. It was EXACTLY what I needed. And yes I took my sleepy pill too.
Hope you are feeling better!