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My yoga practice didn’t begin because I wanted to touch my toes or do a headstand. I actually didn’t even think about the physical benefits of yoga when I made the decision to start practicing. Actually, let’s back up - I shouldn’t use the word ‘decision’ because it implies that I had a choice in the matter, and to be perfectly honest, it was more like a last resort.
I had been living with daily, chronic (sometimes debilitating) anxiety for about 5 years. I’ve never been an overly relaxed person, but the last 5 years of my life had been tough. There wasn’t a day that passed without anxiety. For most of those 5 years I had this assumption in my mind that one day it would stop, and my life would return to the normal I had once known. The thoughts of “what if” would not plague me, and the fears & phobias I developed would just detach themselves and move on. But suddenly it hit me- this was never going to stop. Anxiety crept into my life Every. Single. Day. This wasn’t a phase, this was my life, and years had already passed. How many more would pass like this? How many more years of my life are going to be lived in my head, fearing the world in which I lived? So, on an ordinary day in January while commuting home from work the decision was made: I would give myself one more chance to fix this in a holistic manner, and that it didn’t work, I would talk to my doctor about taking medication.
It took several weeks of practicing steady yoga for me to begin to see the benefits. The physical benefits became obvious quickly – I was noticeably stronger and had more endurance than I had in years. The constant breath cues helped me hold tough poses for longer periods of time and the safe & caring atmosphere that my teachers created allowed me to try new things, like a headstand. (Something I had been terrified to do because I get dizzy easily. Inversions ended up becoming a favorite of mine) After practicing yoga several days a week for about 4 months, I decided it was time to explore this practice on a deeper level. I started seeing one of my yoga teachers for private sessions, and although she put me through a tough physical asana (physical practice) she also challenged me with an emotional and mental practice. We would meditate and practice breathing exercises during each session. That’s when my life began to change for the better.
Did you know that you can control symptoms of anxiety and stress with just a simple breathing exercise? I didn’t. Our breath is a tool, and it can be used to help calm us during times of high anxiety and stress, and, just the opposite, it can cause more anxiety and stress when ignored. If you’ve ever had an anxiety attack you know first hand that it can feel like you’re having a heart attack. The chest tightens and the breath is restricted. Yoga literally gave me the ability to breathe freely. It didn’t cure my anxiety; instead, it taught me how to accept it, handle it, and learn from it.
And then one day I found my hands resting on my toes while in a standing forward fold. What had once felt so far away, was finally within reach.
Morgan Gertler Pirog
Writer/Dreamer: Creating Things of Enduring Value
Morgan is a believer that positive thoughts will lead to positive actions. She found yoga several years ago and was immediately drawn to the unification of body, breath & mind. Her other loves include her husband, her pit bull mix Jagger and mermaids.