Anxiety seems to be everywhere. It's in those days where we feel so restless that it's hard to sit still, those times where obsessive thinking and worry consume us, but especially those crappy moments where panic cripples us and we feel completely alone. Statistics show that anxiety is now Australia's most prevalent mental illness. Over time, it takes it's toll on your self-perceptions, relationships and health, leading to insomnia, high blood pressure, fatigue, obesity, depression, heart disease. There's a range of strategies we can try to manage anxiety. But can yoga really be one of them?
Growing Up With Anxiety
When I was recommended yoga to treat my anxiety and depression, I was not a believer. If psychologists, psychiatrists and medications couldn't help me, I didn't see how lycra and stretching could. I had experienced anxiety from the age of 5 and over the years it chipped away at my self-perceptions, relationships and health. By the age of 18 I was suffering daily panic attacks and living in so much frustration, burden and pain. This inevitably led to years of depression and suicide attempts. At 22 I found myself at a crossroad and I decided to embark on a wellness journey through yoga that not only saved my life but changed it forever.
How Yoga Helped My Anxiety
When I started yoga I had no idea how much my life would change. I started off with a simple beginner yoga class and I just found love. It's hard to put into words, but it was like a therapy in a way. Something about these unusual twists, turns and folds soothed me when nothing else could. Coming to my mat became the most effective way to interrupt anxious thought patterns and calm my mind. Yoga became my anchor on the days I felt like I was being swept away. No matter what I was experiencing – anxiety, anger, excitement, fear, fatigue, I found that yoga had this innate capability to balance me. My life was never the same. My anxiety was never the same.
Living with Anxiety Today
Today anxiety no longer controls me. I've now come to understand and accept that, for me, my anxiety is simply a part of this human experience. It still comes to visit from time to time. But I've learned to use yoga as a tool to handle my triggers, cultivate balance and implement effective strategies to cope and coexist with anxiety. I still experience panic attacks. But instead of them being 3 times a day, they’re 3 times a year. Despite this anxiety I also teach yoga for a living (specifically Yoga for Anxiety Workshops), I freedive to 30m on one breath of air, I skydive solo out of a plane, I swim with sharks. There was a time when my anxiety crippled me and kept me from all the beautiful things this world has to offer, and now I know that no matter how bad things get I always have this place to come home to on the mat. Yoga taught me how to move with love instead of fear. It saved my life. I wouldn’t be here without it. So for me, yoga will always be so much more than the pretty postures you see on Instagram. I'm not saying that yoga is the be all end all. Everyone's healing path is different. Whether it's downward facing dog, a walk in nature, your favourite chocolate on the couch with binge netflix, or whatever! I encourage you all to find whatever it is that cultivates balance and harmony in your life. This holistic, mindful approach of yoga worked for me, and it just may work for you too.