I love yoga. I teach yoga. I live yoga. I tell everyone they need to try yoga.
And I really do think everyone should try yoga. It’s made a huge impact on the way I interact with other people and the way my brain interacts with my emotions.
Here’s the thing, though. Sometimes yoga makes my anxiety worse.
More accurately, I should say sometimes the asana (pose) aspect of yoga makes my anxiety worse, and even then, it’s not like any pose will send me spiraling into despair.
But these days, if I do a Power Vinyasa class, I will usually be a wreck a few hours later. If I do intense backbends, I am emotionally distraught later. And the more I move my arms up and down, the more agitated I get.
And it makes sense. The body affects the mind and vice versa, so of course certain movements are going to send signals to my brain that my brain wants to reject. I do a backbend, my body is opening up emotions that my chemistry can’t handle right now.
I’m fortunate that I’m able to recognize this and adapt. Advanced yoga isn’t the ability to turn yourself into a pretzel. It’s the ability to recognize what works for you and then do it.
So I continue to practice yoga, but it’s not an intense physical practice. The poses are very gentle. I play around with pranayama (breath work). I surrender and detach from ego (or at least I try), and practice non-violence by not subjecting myself to the poses that will hurt my mind.
As much as I would like for it to be, yoga is not a magic pill for anxiety. It’s just one of the tools in the toolbelt, and I have to be smart about how I use it. Maybe some day I will be able to power my way through a cardio intensive class again. For now, I choose to rest my body and breathe.