Friday, May 4, 2012


The past month or so my anxiety has been slightly higher than usual.  I don't know if its the sudden change in schedule, or constantly changing weather, but I had more panic attacks in the last few weeks than I have in a long time.  That being said, I've been working to get my anxiety back in control and myself in a better place.

I've been spending my mornings before work sitting at Small World Coffee, sipping their chai straight up (which hurts my face...but in a good way) while pouring over my current literary endeavor - at the moment, it's The Elegance of the Hedgehog, a novel that's both provoking and beautifully written, which is amazing because it was translated from French.  These slow, relaxing hours before work have definitely helped relieve some of the tension.  I've also decided to make a slight diet change for the next couple of weeks to see if that helps.  And today I did something that has a huge impact on my mental state, my anxiety control, my body, and my mood, but that I haven't done in over a month - I went to yoga.

Now for those of you who have never taken a yoga class: do it.  Even if it's just to have an excuse to breathe for an hour straight.  There's something calming and centering about yoga that can only be experienced.  Hmm, alright, let me try to explain...

Yesterday I got paid.  Now, I could have stopped and cashed the check on my way home, but I thought, that since I've been in a funk recently, and since the yoga studio is right next door to my bank, I would hold off, forcing myself to stop at the bank on my day off when I would have time to take a yoga class (and more importantly, no excuse not to) therefor tricking myself to go to yoga - clever, aren't I?  So I checked their schedule online and found out that there was a class an hour and a half after I got off work.  Perfect.

However, I always tend to get a little agitated before yoga - the mix of excitement and nervousness does not sit well with me - and having free time just meant 90 minutes of stewing in my anxiety.  So, in attempts to stave of a panic attack, I decided to park (which proved more difficult than usual, since today was warm and sunny and there are seven ice cream shops in town) and walk around a bit before class.  I parked and put an hour in the meter, planning to walk around a bit, then come back, grab my yoga mat, and refill the meter.  Unfortunately, by the time I got back to my car, I was so frantic and tense, that not only did I forget my check to cash, but I forgot to put money in the meter - a fact that was not realized until I was leaving yoga, and resulted in my first ever parking ticket.

But this isn't the point.  This is merely to give you a little background, to set up my mental state before yoga.  So, as I walk into the yoga studio, hot and overwhelmed and anxious, I'm greeted by the owner and my teacher for the evening - a middle aged man with a greying pony tail, who is both calming, warm, and incredibly intimidating and terrifying all at once.  He immediately sets me at ease, lighting some incense and welcoming me to tonight's practices.  I like his classes because they are terribly difficult, but his demeanor keeps it positive - the rigorous movements make you want to cry, but the silly rhymes he makes as he guides you through them make you smile.  And he doesn't let you slack.  He'll call you out if you stop, and come over and correct your body, pushing your knees lower or moving your arms into a position that hurts like hell but opens up the entire left side of your body (you can feel the toxins and tension leeching out your pours).

Classes always end in meditation - you lay on your back, arms and legs completely relaxed, your body sinking into the ground, and just breathe.  This is always my favorite part of yoga.  This is the part where I really feel by body and my mind connect; where the energy that I've produced within my body over the course of the class settles and my breathing becomes deep and regular; where I feel one, complete; where I realize that all of the anxiety that was balled up in my chest when I entered has dissipated into the universe.  And while I know I'm going to be unbelievably sore in the morning, its an incredible, indescribably phenomenal feeling.

When I left yoga, I was changed.  When I got to my car and realized that I had gotten a parking ticket, I didn't get upset - though I may have uttered a single unsavory word.  Instead, I chuckled, and got a teensy bit excited about my first ever parking ticket, taking it as an adult right-of-passage.  Then I rolled down the windows and took the long way home - the way of winding, hilly roads that brings me past all the massive, old-money Princeton houses; out past the farms and orchards, the horses and pastures and barns; through neighborhoods where dad's on mowers trim their lawns and perfum the air, where kids play wiffle-ball, where mom's call from porches that dinner was on the table; along the canal, where the trees overhanging the road are lush and it smells like earth and rain and sun.  It was undeniably summer and I was happy.
Yay First Parking Ticket!
Moral of the story: I need to do more yoga.  I know that it's good for me, that it helps me control my anxiety, and that it improves my overall mood and mental state.  I've been using my busy schedule as an excuse not to go, but I realize that I need to make time for yoga, because it is incredibly important to me and my health.  Therefor, in conjunction with my diet change, I am going to make time for yoga - after work, before work, days off, wherever I can fit it, I'm doing it.

And I'm challenging you, too.  If you've never tried yoga, sign up for a class - Yoga Above, where I practice, is donation based with multiple classes every day, all open to the public.  Take a class and see how it makes you feel, focus on your breathing, and I mean real breathing, and notice the change.  If you haven't changed, if you don't feel different in some way, you're doing it wrong.  If you've taken yoga before, or practice regularly, pay attention to how you feel as you walk into the studio and how you feel as you walk out.  And be thankful.

Well, I think that's enough yoga related ramblings for one sitting.

I'll end this post the way that every yoga class ends: "May the light within me honor the light within you" - Namaste.

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