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I’ve had panic attacks that crippled me.
I spent the majority of my twenties coasting along, having occasional bouts of low-key depression or existential ennui, but generally doing fine. I had been through plenty: a chaotic childhood, a traumatic adolescence, Hurricane Katrina (and the federal levee failures that followed).
But I was fine. Fine. Fiiiiiiiiiine.
At 27, it started catching up with me.
I had a series of panic attacks that put me in the ER four times within a span of six months. The racing pulse, the pressure in my chest, my hands that wouldn’t stop trembling. Unable to speak or get off the floor.
I thought I was literally dying.
It was as though every terrible experience I’d minimized, stuffed down and ignored suddenly broke through the dam of self-protection I’d been diligently building since I was very small. All the trauma I’d ever been through came rushing towards me like a wall of water.
Yoga helped some, but it wasn’t a magic bullet. Meditation and breathing could sometimes take the edge off, but it wasn’t always enough.
So I threw everything I had at the panic attacks.
I went to therapy. I took medicinal herbs (no, not that kind). I saw a psychiatrist. I got a prescription. I got acupuncture. I kept a gratitude journal (and scoff as I might, it helped more than I’d like to admit.)
For seven years and counting, I’ve been getting gradually better.
The anxiety itself has improved. The panic attacks don’t come as frequently and when they do, they’re not as severe. It’s no longer the first thing I think of when I wake up in the morning.
But what has really changed is my ability to deal with myself in these instances of massive terror and all the tiny fearful moments in between. Mostly I work towards being okay with the fact that I can be present with whatever life brings me, with however I am in this moment, and the next, and then the next.
While yoga likely won’t solve your anxiety issues on its own, it can help, precisely because of its capacity to help us connect with the present.
Anxiety is anticipatory. It’s a future tripping unease about some unknown outcome.
Yoga is present-centered.
Donna Farhi says, “Yoga is a technology for arriving in this present moment. It is a means of waking up from our spiritual amnesia, so that we can remember all that we already know.”
P.S. If this reminded you of YOU, I’m teaching Yoga for Anxiety on Sunday and I’d love to have you there. We’ll learn poses, breathing, and other esoteric practices for calming anxiety. Click here for more info.
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