Yoga as a source of anxiety

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My first attempt at painting, three weeks ago.

A friend of mine recently brought this blog post to my attention. The author asks a question I’ve explored a little bit myself – does yoga ‘cure’ anxiety, and conversely, can it produce it?

It might help for me to take a small step back and retell how my anxiety began to manifest itself, how I overcame my worst period of anxiety and panic to date, and why yoga helps me keep my anxious thinking from building up.

At the peak of my anxiety Continue reading

A few words about vulnerability

I have a hard time making myself vulnerable. Fully vulnerable.

I don’t mean that I have a hard time opening up or being transparent. I’m very free with what I share with people – my flaws, my failures, my insecurities, my inflated sense of self-esteem. No qualms about revealing my anxiety, my phobias – things that I didn’t even realize until recently other people keep as closely guarded secrets.

My quirks don’t make me feel in the least bit vulnerable. I’m indifferent to general opinion or how my flaws will shape other people’s views of me. After all, I know something about their flaws too. That they have them. That we ALL have them, and mine are no better and no worse than anybody else’s.

I’m pretty comfortable with who I am. But only for the most part, as it would seem.

Yesterday, my yoga teacher was talking about vulnerability during class. How she craves a connection with people, but is terrified when she feels one. Continue reading

The gift of generalized anxiety

Photo Credits: Alex Castillo Photography

Photo Credits: Alex Castillo Photography

A more somber post than usual, I’m afraid.

I had news of someone’s unexpected death today. He was someone who, while not very close to me personally, was close to many of my loved ones, and who left his family and friends much sooner than they were prepared for (as is always the case when just about anyone makes their departure, I suppose). He was a very good man and many people will miss him. I’m really sorry for his loss.

I’ve been hearing a lot about people’s passing recently. Enough to really catch my attention. At work, among my friends, on Facebook…. even in yoga this morning our instructor was telling us about the death of her dear friend who’d finally lost a valiant battle to cancer, leaving behind two nearly grown children who will no doubt miss their mother even as they move on with their lives.

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Struggling with my own inner critic

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I’ve noticed a disturbing trend within myself.

I’ve never been one to hide my imperfections. I’m the first to laugh at myself when I fall, make a mistake, say something stupid or do something embarrassing. I LOVE retelling my embarrassing stories for the amusement of friends, family and strangers.

I started this blog to convince people to try yoga – especially people who, like me, struggle or have struggled with anxiety and depression, and who can benefit from the surge of endorphins and other lovely brain juices that yoga helps you release. My goal is to help people who are unhappy – with their lives, with themselves, with their circumstances – find a positive outlet for their frustrations.

Early on I recognized, though, that trying new things – yoga included – can be intimidating for folks. Ultimately it boils down to a fear of failure – I’m not going to try it, because I’m afraid I won’t be good at it. OR, I’m not going to try it because it’s not for people like me.

Everything I do on here is about showing that you don’t have to be “good” at it, or be flexible, or a hippie vegetarian to experience the benefits. And frankly, I love yoga (obviously) but the real core message I want to transmit is that finding something that keeps you active and out of your own head can go a long way toward creating positive mental health.

Writing here, though, has made it clear to me I’m not as accepting of my imperfections as I would I like to be (or more like, as I would like people to think I am).

I’ve been practicing yoga consistently for two years now, and fortunately or unfortunately, I’ve learned a few things about what the postures should look like. So now when I look at my own pictures (and other people’s, for the record), I can spot my imperfections everywhere, and they drive me absolutely bonkers.

I look at the beautiful collage up top and I think: bend your knee more, straighten your arm more, lift your heels more. I’m photo (24)OK with posting a picture of myself falling off the wagon wheel, but the images of the sloppy poses makes me want to cringe.

The same thing happened to me when looking at the picture on the right. For the record, when I started practicing yoga I couldn’t even lift a TOE in this pose. But despite my progress, I refused to post this image on social media because my foot is turned out, my knee is not positioned properly, my elbows are open too wide and I’m not pushing my head through my biceps enough.

It’s one of the hallmarks of anxiety sufferers, I suppose. It all screams “you’re not as good as you think you are” and it makes me crazy that I’ve become so judgmental of myself.

I don’t know what this means or how to fix it. Maybe it doesn’t mean anything, and maybe I don’t have to fix it at all.

I think I just have to continue posting imperfect pictures of myself until I get over it (or even if I don’t), because perfection is really and truly not what this is all about.

After all, how can I convince you all that it doesn’t matter that you’re inflexible and that yoga is for everyone if all I do is post images of me perfectly nailing really complicated poses?

Who says you can’t go home again?

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My anxiety levels usually increase drastically when I go home to Nicaragua. I don’t know if it’s the flight, the heat, the threat of earthquakes, the lack of law and order, or the absence of basic emergency services that makes my head start throbbing as soon as I get there. Everything is disorganized. It’s every man for himself on the roads, in crowded public spaces, in queues… pretty much everywhere.

There is no “911” to come to your rescue if you should choke or hear burglars inside the house in the middle of the night. Nicaragua is a very safe place, but there’s a basic safety net I’ve grown accustomed to, and it doesn’t take much to add fuel to the fires in my mind. Continue reading

Barcelona: A blast from the past

1928948_6556570436_362_nI’ve been feeling moderately ancient since my birthday last weekend, so I decided to fight back by reminding myself of the most terrible time in my life – the two years we lived in Barcelona during our MBA.

Now don’t get me wrong. That period in time had all the makings of an idyllic fantasy. An alluring and lively European city. A young couple, recently married. No work or other family responsibilities to worry about. Just us, our studies, and Europe.

And my anxiety.

And no money.

Oh yes, and a miscarriage. Continue reading

Thoughts on being grateful

photo (12)Thanksgiving is an American tradition I’ve grown pretty fond of. Ever since I moved here God knows how many years ago, I’ve had the good fortune of sharing this holiday with wonderful people I’ve had in my life throughout the years.

This year was no exception, but unlike other years I started the day with a special, two-hour yoga class at my new (cheater cheater!) studio.

I’m going to preface all this by saying that I’d been making big strides with the book writing all of last week, but when I got close to the 47,000 word mark, I started to feel a little stuck.

The heroine, Mallory (the twit – although she gets kinda ballsy in the end, so I may have to stop calling her that), is essentially trying to move on from one (non)relationship and to truly open herself up to having feelings for someone else. She gets herself dragged, while digging her heels in slightly, deeper than she would like into a relationship with Mark – the guy you all met in Hong Kong.

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My Post Featured on Tiny Buddha!

My son D, his second day on this planet.

My son D, his second day on this planet.

I haven’t fully told the story here because I wanted to wait until this article came out, but I had a fairly touch-and-go situation when my son was born in London six years ago. The experience was one of the turning points in my struggle against anxiety, so a few months ago, I wrote it up and sent it to Tiny Buddha, one of my favorite sites on the web.

Today, the story of my son’s birth was published there, and I’d love to invite you guys to read it here.