I have a real escapist streak in me. When I’m stressed or when things aren’t going my way, my initial instinct is to retreat. It’s been a blessing and a curse of sorts, since professionally it makes for someone who’s not afraid of – but rather seeks out – change. Personally, however, it was easy to escape from one place to the next when I was single and childless. Having a husband and a six year old son, neither one of whom shares my affinity for wandering the world untethered by earthly possessions, puts a damper on my ability to sell our house and everything in it and go set up a yoga studio on the banks of Lake Como.
I’m not sure how I discovered that the water has an uncanny ability to calm my thoughts and focus my mind on the here and now rather than the imaginary worst case scenario future most people with anxiety live in. It was probably fortunate that our apartment in Barcelona was somewhat close to the beach. When I couldn’t take any more of the dread, the crying, and that choking feeling I STILL haven’t been able to describe for you guys, I would hop on the subway and head down to Barceloneta and the beach. And then I’d just sit there for as long as it took to get a breather, hop back on the subway, and go home.
That attachment to the water has stayed with me through the years, despite my days of non-stop anxiety being long gone. Washington, DC isn’t exactly close to the ocean, and while we do have the Potomac River very close by, I’ve actually found yoga classes have a similar effect on me when things get out of control. I’m not going to lie, there are times when we’re doing core work (Boat or other similar poses) or going into my most DREADED pose Utkatasana (Chair of Torture pose) that I think to myself – why do I like this again?? But then we finish our practice and regardless of what I came into the class thinking about non-stop (oh yeah, I’m also a little obsessive with my thoughts – more on that later), an hour and a half has gone by and all I’ve thought about is yoga. The same thing doesn’t happen when I’m running. In fact, the opposite happens when I’m running!
I think part of it is the fact that yoga is designed to get you to focus on the here and now. The poses are difficult enough that you actually have to focus on doing them properly (or as “properly” as you can manage, anyway). But I also think part of it – at least for me – is that my anxiety is always pushing me to fixate on something, and by focusing on something positive I’m creative more productive emotions than those created when I focus on something negative.
As a side note, most of the beautiful pictures I post on this blog are courtesy of my pillaging my gifted photographer sister Val’s Instagram feed – and I haven’t even picked the best ones! You can catch some of her stuff on Twitter, too. Tell her I sent you!