Yoga every damn day… still

20 April 2017 by
First published: 20 January 2017

It’s yoga every damn day… still, says We Heart Living writer Bethan Taylor.

Three months into my project to do yoga every damn day and I’ve started to notice some themes. The first is that I’m actually pretty bad at hitting the mat every single day. But almost without realising it, I do breathing exercises without fail. The second is that when I talk about why I do yoga, I talk about how I feel worn down, lacking energy and generally a bit sore at life. It’s the second point I should’ve been paying attention to, because if I had I would’ve realised all was not right.

You’d expect that with more yoga sessions, the lethargy, moods and tricky feelings that had plagued me would be lifted, but in reality little changed, I was still low, overwhelmed and nowhere near as calm as I would’ve liked. In retrospect, yoga was taking the edge off a pretty steady downwards spiral into increasing anxiety. I was finding life more and more difficult, culminating in an almighty crash. It was all pretty awful. The good news is that I am now getting the help I need, and I am hopeful about the future – after all, when you hit a low you can only look up.

I started all of this because I thought it would lift me out of a dark patch. I thought I wouldn’t have to address the problems underneath. I was kidding myself. For me yoga is no cure all.

So, what does anxiety mean for my yoga practice? Well I am more realistic that for me yoga can’t solve everything when life gets difficult, however I do think it can still help me. According to Harvard Medical School, yoga can help tame the stress response, which in turn decreases the physical symptoms of anxiety and stress. For example helping to bring down your heart rate and slow your breathing during a panic attack. There are also suggestions that yoga can help improve mood. Although there are questions about how exactly this works, participants in a German study reported improvements in perceived stress, depression and anxiety following regular yoga practice over a number of months.

I’ve mentioned breathing already, but it really has been the biggest take away for me. Taking a moment to take deep breaths, filling up my lungs and helping make sure my blood is full of oxygen, can help relieve a tense moment. It gives you time to breath, shift your focus and consider if you really want to pick a fight just because you feel vulnerable. Again, it’s not a cure all, but can help calm the nasty symptoms of anxiety, which are half the problem.

Something I have noticed is that I’m getting better at reflecting on situations, which I credit to regular meditation. While I still struggle to respond rationally during stressful moments, I do find that I am able to recover more quickly and I’m not ruminating for days afterwards. Being able to make sense of your feelings, even retrospectively, is so important if you want to move on from something like this for good.

I’m only at the start of my journey, but I am hopeful that by continuing to cultivate my practice, I can complement all the other things I’m doing to overcome my anxiety.