Suffering from anxiety has become one of the top reasons to start a yoga practice these days. Doctors, therapists and public opinion suggest us to give yoga a try
to fight this epidemic of our time.
As a yoga teacher I highly welcome this and from my own experience I can assure that yoga will help with anxiety, but can also cause the opposite effect. Let me explain why I think that is.
From my own experience anxiety arises from unsolved struggles within my mind. We all know that feeling that we are having a thought or question we would never share with others. This is one of the hardest challenges we face growing up:
What can we share with others and what not?
Especially if we get dissappointed by family, friends and loved ones time after time we might start to keep more and more to ourself.
Disconnecting others from parts of our own being that we do not appreciate becomes harder and harder the longer we try. Presenting ourselves to the world as we want to be seen, but knowing all the dark sides of our being can be pretty challenging.
The more intelligent we are the more efficient we can create our life around this anxiety of „being seen“. Life coaches will help us to present ourselves as perfect human beings and the longer we fake it the sooner we will make it.
Sounds like an awesome strategy, right? If only there wasn‘t this one huge problem:
We are too smart and sensitive to fool ourselves.
We have to look in the mirror. We find ourselves doubting our actions, we know that something is not right when it is not.
Our subconsciousness is very powerful. The majority of our thoughts are happening there, most of the time without us noticing them. Just because we do not notice it doesn‘t mean we feel do not FEEL those thoughts.
Have you ever felt weird or triggered out of „nothing“?
The more anxiety we feel the more we try to ignore it. We start new activities, meet friends, go out dancing, jump off a plane, find a lover or buy a new sportscar. We direct our mind towards something more fun and that helps calming the anxiety. But does it really?
Is it more like me cranking up my soundsystem to avoid the noise from the construction site next door. Just because something even louder happens, it doesn‘t mean the construction site is gone.
The practice of yoga can help us to connect with our true being. That being said it also includes our dark sides. Like it or not, sometimes a yoga session can make us feel sad or stir up thoughts we do not want to face.
At the same time yoga can also help us strengthening our fake identity we created to protect our wounded soul. Especially when we enter yoga from a background of food disorders, self criticism, over controlling disorder or similar behaviour.
One that does not know anything about Yoga and looks at how it is presented will only see attractive people that are half naked, very flexible and only eat healthy food to maintain their perfect looks and never ending smile.
It can become excluding at some point. Once you do not smile, you are out.
People end up saying things like: I can‘t do Yoga, I am not this or that enough.
But is Yoga really about looking beautiful and being happy all day?
I would agree that this can be the outcome of yoga, but it is not the goal itself.
The more we focus on things like the ability to perform postures and the beauty of our physical body the more we run danger of empowering all the aspects that originally brought us into yoga.
Our anxiety of not being good enough is one of them. If not going to class or eating something unhealthy gives us anxiety then we might want to ask ourselves: Why is that?
If meditating, breathing and stillness in general makes us feel uncomfortable we might find ourselves doing this:
How come to stillness if it doesn‘t feel good? There is so much intense movement and distraction offered in the world of yoga, so why not choose that: It‘s more fun.
As Yoga has become an industry where people try to make money and this combined with the altitude of being „non-judgemental“ almost everything is cool now and can be called „deep work“.
The next sexy dance yoga class and cacao ceremony is just waiting around the corner, so why go to that meditation class and listen to my inner struggles?
Our mind basically stores up every negative memory we have in order to protect us. Once we come to stillness all these negative thoughts start coming up, because the need to tell us something. Our doubts, discomforts and fears we experience are there for a reason, they want to be heard.
The longer we do not listen to these thoughts and distract ourselves from them the more the will pile up in our mind.
More and more often those thoughts will come up during our daily life. It doesn‘t feel like our mind wants to tell us something, it feels more like our mind shouting at us by now: Anxiety.
But there is good news for all of us. Realizing that our fears, doubts and discomforts get stored in our subconsciousness also gives us the chance to clean them out.
Every time we come to stillness and go through our deepest fears we are maintaining our mind. The more we listen to our inner conflicts, the more we can understand and maybe even accept or solve them.
There is no way out anyways. The thought that makes me feel uncomfortable during my Yin practice or meditation would have come up at another point of my life off the mat.
Our moderne work and dating life asks us to accept many things we do not feel comfortable with. Authorities make us not speak our truth and problems of others become our problems. As children we learn to not stir up conflicts and keep our mouth shut.
As adults we are super kind towards others and keep our problems to ourself as we do not want to come across weird. We accept decisions at work, even though we feel that we are not treated in a fair way. There is so much to accept and there will be always a smart person suggesting us to ACCEPT and LET GO.
From my own experience I can say that accepting everything and not questioning things around me makes me feel pretty anxious. Speaking my truth might bring up a conflict, but I believe it is the only way to not create anxiety.
If we could stop pretending to be happy for a moment and look at our struggles we might even find out that there is a lot we share with others in this.
What if I told you that there is others thinking those „crazy thoughts“ you are having? What if there is millions of people out there being afraid of the same things as we are? What if there is people questioning the same things that give us a hard time?
By pretending to be happy we limit our chance to find out how much beauty is wating behind our „Fake it till you make it altitude“.
Imagine how much true connection with others and how much real support is waiting behind the curtains of never ending happiness.
Let‘s start getting real and connect with our dreams, desires and hopes, but also not forget about our fears, discomforts and frustration. This is all part of who we are.