Am I flexible enough? Am I fit enough? Do I look dumb? Is everyone else struggling this much? Is my breathing too loud? How is the teacher even smiling right now... is this supposed to be easy? Clear my mind? What does that even mean?
Do these thoughts sounds familiar? They are for me. In fact I had thoughts like this almost every minute of every day, not just on my mat.
My name is Paige, I am a Yoga Teacher, and I also struggle with Anxiety.
This is defined as "a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease about something with an uncertain outcome." And boy did I worry, about everything... ALL the time!
Many of us suffer from anxiety, sometimes without ever really knowing why we feel this way.
If the thoughts in your head; the self talk, is constantly causing you to plan, worry and not be in the present moment, then you may too have a little anxiety monster trying to take the lead in your life.
But even considering how you may feel sometimes, this doesn't make you broken. I have tried, and will continue to try, many different things to help keep my anxiety monster under control, but the thing I've found to be most effective however, is of course yoga.
I found yoga after a family member recommended it, as she had started as a source of low impact exercise while recovering from breast cancer.Suffering from anxiety at the time (and still am in some ways), she was adamant it would help me.
My first class was overwhelming, scary, and downright confusing.
After the class however, the teacher sat with us as my Aunty explained to her why she had brought me along in the first place. We then decided it would be better off starting with some private sessions to help learn Pranayama (breathing techniques) and Meditation as a means to help me throughout my day to day life.
After just two sessions I would find myself sneaking off when life got overwhelming, to work through some Pranayama practices, as well as sitting in my lounge room meditating before bed. A few short weeks passed and I started to see a huge improvement in my ability to handle life's pressures and stresses.
I then returned back to group yoga classes, working alot with the Asanas (the physical practice) and found Vinyasa flow - in a hot room mind you - to be a whole new form of mediation that I didn't know was possible. My body was struggling so hard to keep up, hold and move through postures, that my mind had no time to be manic.
I would get home after these classes and be so full of energy. This would be different to when I had tried going to the gym, as I would just be constantly stressed about people watching me doing things the wrong way there, only to then get home exhausted and listless. Quickly becoming addicted to being on my mat, and was going up to 5 times a week.
Something happens when feeling into your body as you move through Vinyasa flows. The mind gently becomes still as the self talk quiets down. The more time spent on the mat, the more inner peace I then started to receive.
Yoga "Mastery" however is not really a concept, as some days you may be flying in an arm balance with grace and ease, and other days maybe just standing on one foot is impossible, but all of this is OK, Better than OK, this has become one of the best parts of the practices for me. Observing and developing a more personal relationship with the body through yoga asana gives the space to reflect. This reflection then helps in the healing.
There is a quote in the Bhagavad Gita (a yogic text) that states that "Yoga is the journey of the self, through the self, to the self".
This is a mantra I always come back to when I start to feel any frustration within my practice. Why is this practice that was so easy yesterday so hard today? Am I holding onto some emotional stress I need to let go of? Have I spent too long sitting today, that my body is still trying to find its way? Have I not been fuelling my body with good foods? Where am I at right now and how do I learn to accept this so I can then be here in this moment, through the good, the bad and the completely off balance?
After years and years of yoga practice, as well as recommending others to try yoga for anxiety and getting the feedback that it was working for them too, I knew that this was something I wanted to share with others and teach. This gift that is yoga needed to be shared with everyone!
Years of yearning went by before making the leap to do my teacher training, and I have not looked back since. Anxiety held me back for so long, butwhen I was one day offered a redundancy at my office job, I knew it was a sign that it was finally the time.
I always love hearing stories on how yoga has help so many different people, all from different walks of life, in so many different ways. I adore teaching Vinyasa and Power (Yang) Yoga classes in the hopes of giving that meditation in movement to my students, but I am also starting to find more and more value in the slower, more restorative practices also - another reason why us teachers are also forever students.
Yoga hasn't "cured" my anxiety, but it will continue to be my primary tool for managing it. Both on and off the mat these practices helped me get back control of my mind, body, spirit and that little anxiety monster - and maybe it can will help you too.
- by Paige Francis
Paige was one of the very first teachers here at Nin Yoga, and teaches Tuesdays at Blacktown, Thursdays at Mt Druitt and Fridays at St Marys.