When I first started showing interest in yoga, I took a Beginners Series that lasted 8 weeks. During the very first class my teacher went around the room and asked each of us why we were there. I could have listed 100 reasons but the main reason was to get rid of my anxiety. She looked at me and said “you will never get rid of anxiety, but you can manage it” and I immediately became overwhelmed with negative thoughts. How can I not get rid of it? Isn’t yoga supposed to make me happy all the time and not stressed? Why am I even here then? This is so expensive and I’m wasting my time. You get the idea of what mindset I was in. Given my attitude at the time, I told myself I had already paid for the 8 weeks and I was going to finish it.
I will never forget that very first class. I didn’t have an ‘oh my gosh this is exactly what I’ve been looking for’ moment, not even close. The first thing my teacher started talking about was the breath, and we went through multiple breathing exercises and explained the benefits of each type. I wear a Garmin most of the time when I do any sort of exercise and I mainly use it to monitor my heart rate. Just from doing those breathing exercises my heart rate went from 115 (yes, that was just from sitting there) to right around 95. Everyone is different, but for me that was close to a dang miracle.
She touched a little bit on meditation that day but not much. We started getting into basic poses and how to correctly get in them. It sparked interest for me because I thought “well, if that little breathing exercise lowered my heart rate, I’m curious what this meditation is all about”. I’ll be honest, I laughed at the thought of meditation. It’s super weird, you just sit there and breathe. I did not understand it at all. Another teacher suggested the app Headspace, so I decided to give it a try. Headspace is a guided meditation, he helps you through it and totally understands the struggle of just starting out. He also has an awesome accent, so it’s very very easy to listen to him 🙂 I was absolutely terrible at it. I could not focus on my breath to save my life. My mind went in every direction possible and I couldn’t sit still. I started to give up after just ONE session, and when you first start the sessions they are maybe 10 minutes long and I think you only try the meditation part for 5 minutes. It was embarrassing and frustrating.
Obviously I’m going to say the more I did it, the better I got. Just like with anything else you’re trying to accomplish, practice makes progress. My whole point here is not because it completely made my anxiety vanish, my teacher was right–you can’t get rid of anxiety, but oh my gosh you can surely manage it. It’s amazing what meditating did for me and how I handle situations now. Am I an expert? Heck no. I still have times where I’m super overwhelmed and let stress get to me. I am just now able to get up to 15 minutes and my mind still wanders during sessions, but now I can identify that and bring my mind back to my breath.
I thought meditating would only help how I handle anxiety, but it’s done so much more. The combination of yoga + meditation has helped me in countless ways. I respond to ‘stressful’ situations much better, I don’t care what people think, I don’t worry about anyone’s business, I’m much more positive overall, I encourage people more often, and I’m much more careful about who I choose to spend time with and surround myself with. I used to always say ‘yes’ to people to make them happy even if it made me miserable. I opened up to the wrong people and I let people’s opinions get to me and influence my decisions. I can’t say those things never happen to me anymore, but they definitely happen a lot less often and I can handle negative emotions so much better now. I probably say this in every post, but our life on this earth is so short…and I will not let other people make me feel like I have to live my life a certain way.
This was A LOT longer than what I expected but I really hope that if you struggle with anxiety or just being overwhelmed you give meditation a try. Stick with it for a few sessions, and watch the magic unfold.