Why I Practice Yoga.
March 27, 2014
Filed Under: Personal
It is true that I tend to be a stressed and anxious person. Even when I was little, I would exhibit strange behavior when frustrated or upset, such as stomping on my own feet until they turned bright red (my mom constantly reminds me of this). Once I got a bit older, this stress would manifest itself in occasional panicked fits when I would burst out angrily at people that didn’t deserve it. I think the best reason that I can give for this dramatic physical display of an internal emotion is that I have a tendency to let things build and build and build until a dam breaks, and unfortunately those that I am the closest with are the ones there to witness the outpouring.
As I have come to grow familiar with this part of my personality, I’ve also started to recognize when the pressure on my emotional dam is building. The outbursts that I was once experiencing are now very few and far between. My stress-related meltdowns have now taken on a much different form that my friend recently referred to as the “Kayley Alarm”. This title almost sounds like it’s referring to an external breakdown of some sort but it’s quite the opposite. What she was referring to is when I abruptly disengage. I suddenly stop contributing to conversation and am very clearly focusing on internal dialog rather than what is being said around me. Sometimes this is triggered by specific topics or statements that make me feel uncomfortable, sad, or anxious, but oftentimes it’s simply a result of my inner wheels turning too quickly for me to continue being social.
I spent twelve years of my life participating in dance classes and on competition teams. Upon reaching high school, this activity acted as a huge source of stress relief for me. Up until my junior year, dance was one of the highlights of my life. However, as my schoolwork increased and pressure built with college looming in the near future, the additional time I was dedicating to dance became too much, and as it was no longer a source of joy for me, I decided to discontinue.
Discovering yoga a few years ago impacted me so strongly. I started right when the local hot yoga studio opened up and was going on a daily basis. The role that yoga played in my life at the time was similar to what dance had once meant to me. A series of movements, testing my balance and flexibility, building strength, relieving stress. But one of the major differences was the message I learned there – that there was no pressure for perfection. For me, dance had not been that way. Each movement felt like it had to be perfectly executed. It wasn’t about about listening to my body, it was about making my body listen to me. It was about beating myself up if I couldn’t gracefully land my fuete that one time, or questioning my competence if my brain somehow couldn’t remember a count of eight. Along with the stress-relief and joy dance brought into my life also came frustration, comparison, and a feeling of not being good enough. I didn’t realize this until I started yoga.
After taking a hiatus from practicing yoga due to a long trip and moving across town, I realized it was essential that I go back not only for the physical benefits, but the mental benefits as well. When I first discovered the practice, I was taking classes taught by the same woman regularly. As the owner of the studio, she slowly stepped away from the classroom but I was fortunate enough to be in a vinyasa class she was teaching upon my return. Despite the fact that it had been close to two years since I had been in that building, after the class she stopped me as I was sweaty, relaxed, and completely void of my anxiety and said, “I remember you. You smile when you practice”.
That – is why I practice yoga.