Yoga and Anxiety

While I was at my yoga class this morning I realized that I was able to relax and enjoy the experience. That most likely sounds strange but I have always had a difficult time relaxing and enjoying any experience that requires relaxing. I saw a massage therapist for several months who told me I was the only patient she had ever worked on that was as tense when the massage was over as they were when it started. I have done yoga off and on for years and have always struggled with relaxing. Yoga is a good way to stretch muscles but also to relax your body but the tension I have always carried in my neck seems to get worse when I try to relax. Why? There is an easy answer. Anxiety and control. The two go hand in hand.

Anxiety is the fear of “what if”. What if I make the wrong decision, say the wrong thing, turn down the wrong street and so on. Those of us who struggle with anxiety can convince ourselves that any and all decisions from chocolate instead of butter pecan to vacation instead of working through a holiday are major decisions and require lots of thought. Most of our fears are irrational. They take place in the future, worries that we can not control because they have not happened yet or we worry about past decisions so much that we cannot be present in the here and now. Every word someone else says to us is an attack, every decision made comes back to worry us and the future is too scary to contemplate. We become tense, nervous, agitated and look for ways out of the irrational thoughts. My thoughts during yoga were to be stiff and hold my breath, tightening my neck muscles instead of my core muscles, holding my breath instead of letting my breath move me through the exercises.

What is different this time around? Me. Plain and simple. I have learned through my practice that I can manage my anxiety, relax and be in the moment. No thoughts of what if I do a move wrong, what if someone is looking at me, what if I am not perfect. It is all about being me and I have finally learned to love and respect myself as well as embrace my imperfections. I can look at my anxiety as a fault or a flaw or I can pretend it does not exist but then I am stuck in that fear. I can consider it an imperfection and work on managing it so that I can relax through yoga. Maybe it is time for me to make another massage appointment.