101 Goal #86: Yoga and Anxiety

Warning: This is a long and personal post. Hope you enjoy it.

If you follow me on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter then you probably already know that I love yoga. What you might not know is that I didn’t always feel this way. It wasn’t until 2008 when I had a pretty serious ab injury and I needed to take a PE credit for college. I opted for Yoga in hopes that it would strengthen my core so that I could get back to rock climbing. Little did I know that it would become a great resource for me a few years later.

That semester I took Yoga once a week for two hours. I learned a little about the history of yoga, how to meditate and I did strengthen my core, as well as my legs, shoulders and back. But after my class ended, I pretty much went back to climbing daily and didn’t really have time. Plus, I was too intimidated to go to a yoga class myself, Christian wasn’t interested in going with me and I didn’t really have any interested friends either.

Rayna doing Yoga at Standley Lake.

Shortly after finishing up my yoga course, I learned to truly appreciate yoga for all that it is. I developed General Anxiety Disorder with Panic. It started off with just a random panic attack here or there, but got to the point where I was having them every 1-2 hours, all day, every day. It was hard to leave the house, to try a new food and we almost got stranded in Atlanta, GA once because I was totally terrified to get back on a plane. It was bad. Really bad. It challenged my self identity, my relationship with Christian and everything I knew to be normal in the world.

It was then that I truly learned the full value of yoga. I started practicing meditation, deep breathing and calming poses. And thanks to yoga, after about a year I was down to about one panic attack each day. And today, I type this having not had a panic attack in over a year. Now, don’t assume that means I’m better, because I’m not. Yoga didn’t cure me, it just allows me to live my life. I kind of view it like alcoholism, just because I can control it doesn’t mean the urge isn’t there. I still have to convince myself that if I try a new food, I won’t have a deadly allergic reaction and that just because it’s sunny out doesn’t mean that the earth is about to be sucked into the sun. Yes, it sounds funny, I laugh at myself too, but this is how my brain works. It’s constantly thinking up new and unusual ways to freak me out.

But now with the help of Yoga, I can try new foods, I can go to new places, I can climb to the top of a rock cliff and know I’m safe, I can face every day with a smiling face, knowing and remembering that it could be worse. Appreciating life and happiness. Appreciating everything Yoga has allowed me to overcome.

Every once in a while, I start drifting away from Yoga. I get fixated on climbing, on my photography business or training my sweet Savannah dog, and I stop practicing. I hadn’t been doing it very often when I developed my cold allergy last summer and I started practicing for 20-30 minutes at home everyday to help deal with that. But at some point, it started to become boring and I think it was because I wasn’t really able to push myself at home.

I decided to challenge myself in my 101 Goals for 1001 days. In there I put taking a yoga class twice a week for two months. And so I did. I started going to Yoga before climbing at Movement Denver with my friend Tegan and when she couldn’t go, I forced myself to go myself. I completed my two months on May 29th.

In the process, I was reunited with my mediation skills, learned how to do handstands and headstands, and have become a better climber. I also learned a quote from one of my Yoga teachers that I challenge myself to live by daily, “Find your edges, challenge yourself and become comfortable in uncomfortable places.”