Hi fellow YS fam! You may have seen me around the studio, and when you do I'm probably indirectly avoiding eye contact and heading to my mat to plant down in child's pose (my favorite) before class begins. My name is Kait, and I'm here to open up about my struggles with anxiety and panic disorder, and how Yoga has helped me cope and learn to heal myself. Anxiety is such a common struggle, one that often is not visible from the outside, and I hope that this ensures anyone in the same internal battle that they are not fighting alone.
For as long as I can remember, I've been an over-thinker. I too often get stuck in my head and buried in negative thoughts. My anxiety is constant. I assume the worst possible scenario, fear the unknown, and worry about the past and future so much that I am always fighting to "be here now". Remaining present is something I have to work to achieve on a daily basis. When I am on my mat, I am closest to free of those drowning thoughts as it gets. The cues to breathe, the insightful messages the teachers deliver, the constant and rhythmic movement - it all adds up to the best therapy my soul has found yet.
Breathing is something that occurs so naturally for all walks of life, something we usually fail to even notice is happening, but it can often feel constricted when dealing with constant anxiety. There have been several times that I have ended up in the ER from a panic or anxiety attack because I have felt like I lost all control over my breath. My heart thumping out of chest, body shaking and sweating, and my throat feeling as if it's doing anything but allowing breath to flow easy. It is a terrifying experience to say the least. Yoga has given me the tools to help alleviate these side effects and come back to my breath when I stray too far. Not always do they work, but it is the closest thing to the strength of medicine for me. As soon as I feel the overwhelming rush of emotions approaching, I drop down to my knees and focus on achieving that yogic breath like we all do in a class. Being there on the ground and breathing deep and intentionally take me back to a feeling of safety. I remind myself over and over that if I have my breath, I'm living and thriving well. I tell myself that everything is going to be fine and that the slew of doubts and fears are all false. I remember the control and empowerment I feel when I'm dripping sweat in a Hot Power class but am able to use that same breath to push through to that blissful svasana.
When I first started practicing Yoga, it was through YouTube videos. I committed myself to a 30 Day Challenge with Yoga by Adrienne. At first, I was a little distracted and antsy through the videos, but as I became used to her voice and quirkiness, I started to find that place. You know what place I'm talking about, Yogis. I loved the feeling my mind and body achieved. I was gaining muscle, feeling confident, and my thoughts were transforming day by day. About a year later I started seeing ads on Instagram for Yoga Squared and was immediately interested! I planned on attending the first day of opening, but anxiety struck and I didn't make it. I was super bummed about it, so I called my bff (Katelyn!) who then was in teacher training, and asked her to join me the next day for a class for some extra motivation to actually make it there. We went in on the second day of YS's opening and I have been in love with the studio and people that fill it ever since. I remember my first class pretty vividly. I was nervous as hell, but soon all of those jittery feelings subsided and I was lost in the movement. We started off just focusing on breathing. The music was loud and my thoughts were quiet. My body was challenged through every pose. I cried through svasana (as I do every class now lol). I walked out dripping in sweat and already sore. I felt alive and present. I wanted more of it every day. It was a whole different world of feelings from what the YouTube videos were providing.
After that first day I went to every class I could make it to. Each teacher at YS offers a totally different experience and I enjoy them all. I am so thankful for all of the beautiful words and classes that are pieced together by each of them. So much love and encouragement is delivered in that room, and it's truly incomparable. If I'm having a bad day, I know where to go. If I need an extra reminder of my strength and control, I know my mats got my back. I love having a sacred space to release and heal & I love that I can show up and leave exactly as I am. Kate & Nikki work so hard to make sure Yoga Squared is a loving and comforting space for everyone that walks through that door. They're two extremely special people serving our community with only the best of vibes. I now could never imagine my life without Yoga, and I am so happy to have found YS when I did.
My advice to those struggling to breathe and stay present, is to use Yoga off the mat. Find that place - where even when you don't think you can't balance for one second longer, that breath and focus proves you wrong. Remind yourself of your strength and beauty the way a soulful flow does. You can always drop down to your knees and take that child's pose, and you should never feel hesitant to do so... we've all earned that moment to breathe. We all have the power to make it through our internal challenges. Keep pushing, keep believing, keep breathing. We've got this.
peace, love, & light to all of you!