Some people come to yoga and hate it. Some people really like the idea, so they keep coming back. Some people do their first down dog and it’s the worst feeling they’ve experienced. For some reason, they’re compelled to keep trying it and eventually they get to a place of tolerance and respect for down dog.
I did my first down dog in 1995 at Jamnastics in Chicago and fell in love. My body was home. I felt like I’d done this before and my body was just waiting for me to do it again. I was hooked.
In those early days 90 minutes of yoga flew by as I settled into the physical aspects of the practice. I worked hard at understanding the nuances and the energy of poses. My whole mind was absorbed with balance and alignment. I worked hard, loving every minute. Each class I fell in love a little bit more.
I simply loved the practice. I didn’t need the popularity or glamour of yoga in the 90s. I didn’t need anyone’s admiration or approval. The way my body felt moving through poses, sinking into stretches, opening into backbends delighted me. All the benefits were just gravy. I loved actually doing yoga.
I’ve told the story before of how yoga helped me get off Zoloft. Back then we didn’t know the mindfulness connection or the exercise connection to managing mental health. There’s been a lot of research done that shows that both exercise and mindfulness can affect the brain in the same way that Zoloft does. I just knew that I felt better with yoga than on the Zoloft. So, without a doctor’s guidance, I got off. DON”T DO THAT. Not only is it uncomfortable, but I didn’t know at the time, it’s also dangerous. In extreme situations, you can die.
I was lucky and the side affects were simply uncomfortable. You’d think this is one of the big reasons that I love yoga. Strangely, it’s not.
After I started teaching in 2001, I fell in love with the mindfulness aspect. Intention became incredibly important to me. Having had a practice for awhile, being present became easy. Meditation practice became a haven. It was a gentle and safe way for me to unfold and explore Melissa.This is where I fell in love again.
Now, 15 years into teaching and 20 years since my first down dog I find that yoga is integral to managing my anxiety. I’ve been back on the Zoloft one other time, after my son was born, and Zoloft and yoga together saved my life.
My life isn’t always perfect. Some days the anxiety still gets the best of me. Today, though, I know that I have answers. Choosing those answers is always my downfall. When I’m feeling panicky, my heart races and my breath is shallow, which also affects my blood sugar. As someone who struggles with blood sugar issues, it can feel awful, terrible, when my glucose is high. When that happens, my inflammation increases and my arthritis pain intensifies. Being in my body is not a happy place and all those physical health issues increase the anxiety. More. Again.
So often I want to just cry or climb in bed instead of go for a walk, eat some protein or get into my favorite twist. It happens to all of us, even me.
Over the last 18 months or so I’ve encountered some major health issues that have spiked my blood sugar, teased my asthma and in turn sent my anxiety to the clouds. Slowly over this last year and a half I’ve learned that I always know how to make it better. I have lots of skills and tools to take care of the worst of the anxiety. I’ve been tested again and again, so I’m finally just going to accept that I know how to do this. Some episodes I handled smoothly and with grace. Sometimes it was pretty ugly.
We’re always looking for another answer aren’t we? We humans are notorious for looking for the bigger and the better. We’re so seldom satisfied with the answer that already works.
This year I finally accepted the answers that work. It’s not always easy, but it is simple.
I guess this must be the third time I’ve fallen in love with yoga. Poses like Supta Baddha Konasana taught me to surrender, to stop pushing away what was right in front of my face. Meditation practice, pranayama and flowing through yoga practicestaught me acceptance. Over and over I learn these same lessons about new issues in my life.
So, 2016 is the year that I recommit to teaching yoga and mindfulness to help people manage their mental health. It is what excites me and satisfies me, and frankly, I’m good at it. I get it. I know what a panic attack feels like. I get how it feels helpless, even though it never is. I’m good at what I do because I live it day in and day out.
So, teaching what I’ve learned through dialectical behavioral therapy, yoga therapy, yoga poses and mindfulness tools makes sense. When I teach a yoga for anxiety workshop or a class like YogaBreak, designed to not only work the body, but engage the mind so that class flies by, I am thrilled by the results I see in my students and the feedback I get from clients.
I struggle with whether I am the person to teach this because I don’t do it perfectly. That loop still plays sometimes in the back of my head “Who the hell do you think you are.?” Luckily I have dbt skills to shush that tape.
I do the best I can. It’s all I can do and I happily ask only that of my students and the people around me. I’m not sure why when I’m dealing with my own ego I find it so hard to accept that I am enough. Then I remember the teachers that have inspired me, the ones who have guided me, supported me, taught me and modeled for me. Not perfect people, but ones that believe passionately in what they do and they keep coming back and doing the best they can.
I am good at what I do and that is enough. My mind gets busy and starts telling me nutty things, but I rein it in, get on the mat or do some breath work and that is enough. I’m not perfect, but I am passionate and I keep trying and that is enough.
Today, I am enough.
This spring join me with Lawrence, KS classes and online work to manage your mental health and times of high emotion. Go to the website to see everything I’m offering and don’t forget that I love working with you thru Skype. Private sessions are on sale to celebrate my 15th year of teaching. Ananda sessions, pictured here, are a relaxing blend of restorative yoga, massage and reiki. People with anxiety report feeling lessening of symptoms for up to a week! I’m working on extending that.