As part of my new years resolutions for basket cases, I decided to do yoga twice a week. Yoga helps me keep an even keel and succeeds where other holistic or natural treatments fail, and I’ve seriously been slacking. Since I spent the first week of January doing exactly no yoga, I got it in my head to do yoga everyday for one week to kind of shock my system into self care. Here’s my diary of the week I spent doing yoga everyday (ish).
Was about to do yoga, drank wine instead. The road to hell is paved with good intentions.
I may be the first person in the history of the world who is too anxious to go to a yoga class with the intention of becoming less anxious. I decided since obviously everyone at a class would be judging my physical fitness, I should do a few practice sessions at home to get back in shape. Most reasonable experts would tell you that a two day crash course in yoga isn’t really enough to change your body in any way, but I have never been one to listen to reason.
I found a 30 minute Youtube yoga for anxiety session, thinking that 30 minutes would be a nice, easy way to get back into things. Unfortunately, I realized I didn’t have my yoga mat, so I used a towel which slipped out from under me no less than four times. I tried to focus on my breathing and finding some sense of balance, but I was much more out of shape than I thought and it turned out to be much more physically challenging. As much as I tried to keep my breaths consistent and deep, I mostly panted or held my breath out of fear that I would fall. It wasn’t the best start, but afterwards I did feel a sense of relaxed calm, even though I kept beating myself up for struggling through it so much.
I repeated the same 30 minute Youtube session from the day before, and while I still struggled physically because I have the arm strength of a newborn T-Rex, I noticed that I was able to turn my brain off for small periods, which is a major victory. I only fell over once, too. Tomorrow, I’m going to a class.
I have a lot of anxiety about going to new places, because I am not a normal human who can just do things. For instance–going to a new restaurant can be daunting–I worry that I’ll pull the push door (or worse, not know where the entrance is at all), or that I won’t know how to navigate the seating situation. What if there’s no sign and no host area for me to go put my name down? I’ll just stand there, helpless, hoping that somebody will tell me what to do so I can just fit in, instead of looking like a dead fish while everyone else gets to eat. This is not a rational concern, and I am fully aware that this is a waste of time. If everybody spent their lives being terrified of navigating new restaurants, nobody would ever make it to the pizza bread at Souplantation.
Mercifully, a friend of mine decided to go with me to yoga, but I was still concerned how to navigate the situation when we walked in the door. It appeared that there were two discrete areas to leave your shoes, but the signs were unintelligible. I winged it and put my shoes in one corner, and observed the receptionist telling another patron that she had put her shoes on the wrong shelf. That could have been me. Can you imagine?
My friend and I found spots near the back and chatted while we waited for the class to begin. Our teacher, a five-foot tall Japanese man entered and instructed us through a series of poses. Everything was going great, except that I obsessed that the person behind me might be able to see my genitals through my yoga pants, which I’d now decided were perhaps transparent. I also worried that I would pass out, since the 90 minute class was obviously more than my body could handle. I made myself rest in child’s pose and reminded myself that nobody is watching, because nobody cares about my ass in yoga pants.
Disaster struck. I went back to the same yoga studio, this time alone. I knew how to find the secret entrance (known to most people as “the entrance”) and where to put my shoes, and I set up my mat near the back. Only this time, everything was awful because the back was the front. I had a different teacher who decided to stand at the back of the room to “switch things up,” so I was in the front row. She was perky and busty and I assume she used to kill small animals as a child.
I started doing yoga in high school, when I was immeasurably lucky to have it offered as a PE credit. After years of faking my period every day to get out of PE, I attended yoga class almost every day in tenth grade, and given that I was such an anxious shit, it saved me. I was perplexed to receive a B in the class at the end of the year, apparently due to my inability to keep a straight face during Happy Baby pose and my unwillingness to put my mat in the front row. A B in yoga. God bless overzealous PE teachers.
The class started and I had no choice but to stick it out in the front row, constantly repeating to myself that nobody’s looking; nobody cares. It became a kind of mantra and I would repeat it in my head as I exhaled, and it ended up being the most focused 90 minute session of yoga in my life. As I was walking home, I noticed that I felt strong.
Back to doing yoga in my house. I still slipped all over the place like a cartoon octopus on roller skates, but I felt myself zone out more. I only lost focus in the last 10 minutes of my 40 minute session, which is basically a miracle.
During today’s Youtube session, I tried to focus on something that I learned that first year I did yoga in PE class. Our teacher, Judy, would say “hold this pose for a few breaths while focusing on how strong you are. Your legs, your arms, your stomach and your back are all holding you up, and they can do that because you’re strong. You’re strong, you’re strong, you’re strong.”
After a week, I do feel like I’ve had a change in my baseline anxiety level, but I know a week isn’t enough to affect lasting change. I did sleep better this week than any time that I remember recently, and I feel exceptionally encouraged by these results. I found that when I woke up in the morning, I wasn’t immediately gripped with terror like I always am. While I know that yoga doesn’t take away my anxiety completely, it can keep things more manageable, and allow me to live my life without hiding in my house all the time.
Not to be too heavy handed with my metaphors, but given how anxious I feel every waking second, I frequently think of that as being weak. But I’m not weak and I don’t need to treat myself that way. It’s a waste of time to worry about finding the host booth at a restaurant or figuring out where to put my shoes. I’m only weak when I sell myself short, and this experiment has been helpful in reminding me that I’m strong, I’m strong, I’m strong. I give it a B+, which at least means I’m improving.
Photo: Forgetting Sarah Marshall, GIF (via)