Yoga (but Not Naked Yoga) as Antidote to Anxiety

I went to yoga the other day. I didn’t want to. I mean I did, but when I woke up I came up with all sorts of excuses for not going. I had too much to do. I hadn’t yet read the multitude of emails from school, and school was starting up in a few days. I never ordered one of the summer reading books for my son, which I’ve been meaning to do for over a week. I’m tired. I don’t have the energy. I have a query letter to write and research to do. I have a book to finish. But the library in the next town offers a free yoga class on Mondays during the summer with Labor Day being the last one, and I had to drop my daughter off at band camp a few minutes before the class started so I’d already be out and in the car ready to go. And, I had to go to the library anyway, which opens when the class ends, and I’ve been meaning to take up yoga again – remember my New Years resolution?

I knew that final class would be good for me, though, so I forced myself to go. So far this summer I’ve managed to make it to two classes. Years ago my therapist recommended yoga to me (but not naked yoga because that would only make things worse) to help quell the anxiety. But, again, who has time for that? I’d much rather walk around hyperventilating and trying to ignore the pain in my stomach while I spin my wheels and piss the time away. I feel more productive that way.

Yoga as Antidote to Anxiety. By @OneFunnyMotha

Once in Puerto Rico I did yoga under a banyan tree. It was and still is the best yoga experience of my life, and not just because of the location. The setting, overlooking a crescent strip of sand studded with palm trees fluttering against the cerulean sky, didn’t hurt, but that wasn’t it. It was the instructor. The practice wasn’t really about yoga posses, or at least it wasn’t about the strength and stamina to hold downward dog indefinitely. It was spiritual. Throughout the instructor implored us to appreciate the sun beating on our shoulders, the chirp of the coqui, the beauty of the old banyan tree. We were practicing yoga on a warm, summer day, and the present moment was all we had to think about. Just that moment. Nothing else.

Toward the end as I laid on my back under the shade of the thick, squat tree, looking up at pure white clouds drifting lazily overhead as palm fronds rustled in the breeze, the instructor said in a voice so smooth and assured as to be unimpeachable, “Everything in the universe is fine. Everything is as it should be.” And for someone constantly trying to stuff the world into place, someone plagued by worry and doubt and fear, someone trying to find order and control, those words provided such relief that I continue to think of them to this day.

Maybe she’s right. Maybe everything is happening the way it should be. I’m just not privy to it. God, for some reason, has not filled me in on what that is. Why won’t God tell me these things? For Pete sake. Whatever the case, I needed to hear those words. I needed to hear someone say, “Everything is okay.” It gave me permission to believe it.

Suddenly my shoulders dropped into the turquoise mat, the crease down the middle of my forehead smoothed out, all the muscles in my body released. I was lighter. Afterward I floated through the lobby to the breakfast buffet at the open air restaurant, no longer trying to hold everything so tightly together because if I didn’t the world might crumble and collapse.

That’s the message I need whispered into my ear every morning. I need to hear those words. My husband used to do that for me. He didn’t say the words exactly, but his presence, his calm demeanor always reassured me. But we’re older now with kids and all the complexity that brings, and he’s too busy with work, emails constantly pinging on his cell phone, business trips, meetings and commitments, for me to bother him. I don’t think he has time to tell me everything is okay. I’m not sure he believes it himself anymore. But if her words are right, if everything is as it should be, then I have nothing to worry about. That’s hard for me to accept, but I’m trying.

That’s the class I’ve been looking for since Puerto Rico. That’s what I’ve been missing. I got a little glimpse of it this summer.

Today’s the first day in two weeks the knot in my stomach hasn’t lasted all day. It’s the first time I’ve felt like writing in the past three months. And the words came. What a relief. Sometimes when I get this way, well, all the time when I get this way I think it’s over. I’m washed up. That’s it. Time to hang it up and get a paying gig at Starbucks.

But not today.