Over the past several years it seems that yoga has really been establishing itself as a necessity in the fitness community. As athletes, we know the importance of cross training and stretching and yoga affords us both of those things in the same workout. Depending on which style you choose it can range from sweaty, challenging cardio or a more restorative, relaxing, release for tired muscles. The vast majority of people that I know who do yoga started practicing to compliment some other sport, such as running. I did it the other way around. My yoga journey began years before my running journey and when I attended my first class, getting a good workout was not my main objective.
Let’s rewind to 2007. I was living in Hollywood and was a total basket case. For a long time I was having frequent panic attacks over things that – looking back – were just NOT a big deal. I completely lacked the ability to handle any kind of stressful situation. I was the queen of self-sabotage. A short time later I started dating my then-boyfriend/now-Mr.Salt long distance style across the country and opened up to him about these feelings I was having. I mean….I pretty much had to because there would be times when I would flip out on him for no explainable reason. Thankfully he is the most patient and understanding man on the planet and gently suggested that I go speak to a professional.
Had anyone else suggested that to me I would have been really offended. He’s lucky I like him so much.
It took a while to get in with this really good psychiatrist – probably because everyone else in my old neighborhood needed to see him too – but once I did it only took a couple visits for him to pinpoint my problem. I was diagnosed with GAD or Generalized Anxiety Disorder and just having a name to put on something that I had been dealing with for years made me feel so much better. Like this was a problem that other people had and I wasn’t just insane. This would be something I could control. And at first it was controlled with Lexapro.
I was not a fan of the whole drug idea, but once we figured out a dosage that didn’t turn me into an extra from The Walking Dead it was incredibly helpful. Especially in June of 2008 when I was moving from California to Maryland; a process that probably would have buried me under a mountain of panic if I wasn’t taking anything. Once I was resettled on the East Coast though I began to wonder if there were other ways I could manage my anxiety other than with a pill. I started reading about yoga and the impact that a regular practice can have on your mental well-being. It was worth a shot.
Probably a good thing I was still on the Lexapro when I went to my first class though because I likely wouldn’t have been able to get myself in the door without it. Taking your first yoga class can be such a scary thing! I know all to well now that there is nothing to fear. It is a no-judgement zone. Everyone is there to better themselves and I am living proof of that. We all have our own baggage to leave at the door.
Anyway, within a couple months of regular practice, I was able to start cutting my dosage in half. Then I was only taking it a couple days a week. Then eventually not at all. For the first time in as long as I could remember, I was able to focus my energy without outside help. Yoga got my anxiety under control and during that process I also learned some seriously cool party tricks.
Whenever those anxious feelings start to arise, a class or even just running through a few sun salutations in my living room are the perfect Band-aid.
Yoga is very useful to me for many other reasons now. It’s the best stretch I get during a week of hard runs. During injury, it’s a fantastic way to heal. While I’ve been dealing with the entrapped nerve, my best gauge that I am improving is not the miles I’ve been able to put in, but the crescent lunges I’ve been able to do. There was a point about a month ago that I couldn’t bend my toes up to get into a crescent lunge at all without wanting to scream in pain and now I can. Progress!
In the beginning though it was all about learning to calm my mind and I’m so thankful for it every day. Happy 6th Yoga-versary to me! I’ll be celebrating with a class in a few hours and probably a frappuccino right afterward.
Why do YOU practice yoga?