Anxious and Disconnected? Your Answer May Be Here
Honestly, I don’t remember much about my childhood.
I just remember being a big ball of non-stop anxiety and anger. I didn’t fit in anywhere or with anyone. Everything I did and said was wrong. I didn’t think anyone knew me or loved me. And I was extremely lonely. I believed something was really, really wrong with me.
So there I was, making a life changing decision at 17 years old.
That day, I was angry because I was supposed to know what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I knew was what my parents did for a living, landscaping and a physician assistant, neither seemed extremely happy. Landscaping was my brother’s and the medical field dream instantly got crushed when I saw a fractured wrist and someone else’s blood. I really just wanted to run far away. So I ended up picking a major everyone said would land me a job right out of college and I moved 1000 miles away from home and anyone I really knew. It was my time to escape.
I moved into the freshman dorms, joined a sorority, found some good friends but nothing magical happened. I was still sad, angry me. Three months later, I got a major intestinal infection. I was really really sick and very scared. And of course my anxiety only got worse. I ended up physically healing as best as I could but I needed to figure out how to never get that sick again.
I was taught the best way to take care of myself is to go to the gym and stop eating all the food I loved.
But I hated the gym, I couldn’t get myself in the door. I was never the athletic type… there’s a picture somewhere of me picking flowers at my t-ball game as a kid. And taco bell and beer was my favorite meal. I didn’t know what to do. I was a lost cause. My sickness would come back, and I would just have to deal with it.
However, my long-distance partner moved from Maryland, where we grew up, to Louisiana to be with me. Of course this added to the fear and anxiety cloud hanging over my head...but it was the first time in my life that I witnessed someone who loved me that deeply. His love was unconditional, inspiring, and new.
Around this time, a friend brought me to my first yoga class.
Technically my first yoga class was a 20 minute P90x video I tried to do with my mom years earlier. But I don’t really count that. Anyway, I don't remember particularly liking my first yoga class. It was at my university’s gym (again not my fav place) with 30 to 40 people all trying to stretch their bodies in unison. I felt awkward as hell. And I definitely didn’t fit in there.
But I kept going back because of Janice.
A petite older woman with grey hair, who just so happened to teach yoga at the gym. She was the calmest and most down to earth person I had ever met. I wanted to be like Janice. Janice’s classes were pretty gentle and basic. It was the best way for me to start doing yoga. She slowly taught us the foundations while giving us space to challenge ourselves. It didn’t matter who you are, she was your personal yoga cheerleader. It didn’t matter what your downward dog looked like. She kept me going back.
While I was falling in love with Janice and getting on my yoga mat, I wasn’t ready to stop going out to bars and eating Taco bell. Even though my college friends will tell you that I didn’t even go out that much. I began to feel like two different me’s... one who found space to relax and be full of love and one who was non-stop stressed and didn't care about herself. I would leave her yoga classes feeling so good, only until I came upon a long red light or a slow driver. Game over. I still had work to do… I wasn’t at Janice status relaxed.
My love for yoga happened very fast but it wasn't until later when my partner “attempted” (yes, attempted is correct) to break up with me, I made it a part of my life.
During that time of my life, I realized how controlling and mean I was. I didn't treat a lot of people well, especially myself. And that’s a pretty hard thing to see, realize, and admit about yourself. I told him that I would start being a better person, to give me a second chance, even though I had absolutely no idea where to start.
I didn’t know then, but I was so scared, angry, hurt, confused, and lonely. I had acted like I had everything put together. Like I knew I wanted to be an engineer and live 1000 miles away from home. I made it seem like I couldn’t have cared less about what other people thought. It was all an act. I just wanted to be held and cared for. And I didn’t know how to ask for it. I didn’t know I deserved it.
I thought yoga was worth exploring deeper because of how I felt while doing it.
Then, I had lost Janice to her teaching hiatus and it was time for me to graduate to a yoga studio.
That was scary. What if I didn’t fit in at a yoga studio? It would be another place in my life that I felt rejected by. But I wasn’t rejected. The foundations I learned from Janice served me well. I could do a lot of the poses and keep up with most classes. It was magical. I learned how to breathe…breathing is pure magic when you learn how to really breathe. However, very soon my perfectionism took over and it became my mission to become the best yogi ever. My competitive side got the best of me. And for a short while, I got caught up with yoga on Instagram and could only think about what pose would look the coolest on my page. I got lost again.
My wrists started hurting which was followed by my hip and my shoulder...nothing felt right in my body anymore. I was hurt. Now physically and even more mentally.
My body was rejecting me. For a while, I learned how to push through the pain because I couldn’t stop myself. I was going to be the best yogi there was. But I hit a point where I was lost again. I didn't know what to do because yoga was the only place that I felt so good about myself...my real self...a girl who just loved to learn, explore, & ask questions. So I started tapping into that girl and started listening and feeling more.
Luckily the yoga studio I was going to, had teachers devoted to the practice. The real practice. They would talk about the true self, inner child, and the ego... yoga philosophy...how to heal and love myself and others. At that time, that’s what I needed from my yoga practice. As I kept opening my ears and mind, I stopped doing everything the yoga teacher would tell the class to do. If it physically didn’t feel right, then I wouldn’t do it, even though it was mentally hurting me. That was hard. As time went on, I wanted to eat healthier. I was starting to love my body and I wanted to take better care of it.
Eventually my hunger for knowledge continued to grow and grow so I decided to sign up for yoga teacher training.
I wanted to figure out how to share this practice with people who just wanted to be their real selves too. I guess I should have known that I would end up being a teacher of some sort because as a kid, I loved hoarding school supplies and playing teacher with my childhood best friend. So off I went to Costa Rica.
Traveling to another country by myself changed me. Yoga teacher training changed me. I learned what was behind the yoga taught all around the world in gyms and studios. Aside from learning how to move safely in yoga poses, I figured out why I was moving my body. I ate food that wasn’t taco bell, that tasted amazing, was healthy, and gave me energy for 10 hours of yoga teacher training for weeks. I learned more about the magic of the breath and focusing my mind on the task in front of me (the present moment). I learned how to trust strangers and trust in my self. I found what it feels like to feel accepted by a group of strangers. I felt loved and worthy. And because all the magic happens in Costa Rica.
I can’t say I left teacher training ready to teach people any of the stuff I learned.
But I knew that I needed to start figuring out how. On the bumpy road back to San Jose, I realized that not everybody has a Janice as their first yoga teacher. And I wanted to be that Janice for people. It didn’t matter to me that my student’s can’t touch their toes or heels don’t touch the floor in down dog. It mattered that they are just themselves. I came back and immediately started teaching. At first, it was very challenging to teach yoga. I didn’t know how to teach like Janice. All I knew was the poses and the same sequences everyone else knew. I had to figure out how yoga changed me. Because I had to figure out how to teach that.
So what really changed on my yoga mat?
I (eventually) learned how to move my body to just feel good, not to attain the best pose in the class. But more importantly, I realized how powerful my mind was and how easy it was for my mind to tear me down. And I didn’t have to listen to it. I didn’t have to carry around my story of being a scared, angry, hurt, confused, and lonely little girl anymore. It was okay to be human who wanted to be held and loved. I learned how important it is to be other people’s cheerleader, I could be loved and love others with my whole heart. I learned that it was okay to not have everything together, I didn’t need to put on an act anymore. I became like-a-Janice, but my own version.
Today, I teach yoga for people who just want to move their bodies and feel good.
For people looking to release their pent up emotions, stress, anger, pain through movement and breath. For people who may not even know yet, but are looking for how to let go of their mind that is tearing them down. For people who are looking to fall in love with themselves.
It took lots of inner work to become the person I am today. I credit it to yoga for being able to meet me on my mat, where I’m at, each day. I credit it to each person who has touched my life and will touch my life. And I credit it to my younger self, and my now self, because they both deserve it.
Healing is the journey we’re all on.
I would love to hear about your journey and anything that you’ve taken away from or related with my story. Please comment below.