How many yoga classes a week are too many? I’m asking for a friend.
OK, I’m kidding. But I have become a little bit obsessed with yoga lately.
Now, I don’t want to come across as the type of person who will tell you that it will fix everything from a hangnail to a heart attack. It’s no substitute for the care of a physician or mental health expert, but yoga has done a lot for me in a short amount of time.
Over the summer, I got hit with a nasty bout of anxiety. It was rough. I’m sure it was a response to the stressful situation I dealt with in my old, mouse-infested apartment, having to leave and stay with my parents, then move again. My brain kept latching on to the unfortunately-high number of scary things happening in the news and fixate. I was constantly experiencing intrusive thoughts and it made it extremely difficult to do anything that wasn’t staring at my phone and constantly refreshing Google News to make sure nothing catastrophic had happened.
It was hard for me to type that out, and harder to decide to leave it there. Anxiety-induced thought patterns always sound so ridiculous when you’re saying them out loud, don’t they? That’s the thing about mental illness — it’s not based on rational thoughts.
After I moved into my current place, I was taking Wesley for a walk and noticed a little yoga studio just about two blocks away. I didn’t think much about it at first. But then days went by, my enjoyment of these dog walks was limited by my anxiety, and the books I was reading about it spent a lot of time talking about mindfulness and meditation.
So I wondered — maybe I should give yoga a try?
It’s not that I’d never done it before. I went to a place specifically for fat yogis for a while. It was great, but it was more based on the physical and less on the mental aspects of practice. Plus it was too expensive for me and too far away from my new apartment. But this place, I thought, might be worth a try, since it’s so close. Maybe I should just take one class and see.
I turned it over in my head for awhile, convincing myself (with the help of my anxiety, I’m sure) that I should wait until I was more settled before starting a new practice.
Finally Giving it a Try
One day I noticed a sign outside of the studio — intro deal, $39 for two weeks of unlimited classes. Knowing what I used to pay at my old place, that sounded like a really good bargain. I looked them up on the MINDBODY app and perused the list of classes. There were a lot of gentle hatha classes as well as some restorative ones that looked like I could handle them. It still took me a little hemming and hawing, but finally I bit the bullet and signed myself up.
Going to that first class was a little scary. I had never been to a “regular” yoga studio before — only the one that’s specifically geared toward fat people. What if the instructors don’t know how to make modifications? What if people make rude comments? What if there’s diet talk?
It wasn’t a problem. Nothing happened to make me feel bad about myself or my body. The place was welcoming, the instructors were nice and helpful, and the other students were pleasant. So I kept going back.
Each class I’ve been to has opened with a meditation, usually a guided one. They also close with either another meditation or a savasana*, where you lie there and meditate yourself. I can’t emphasize enough how good this has been for my mental health**.
Research increasingly demonstrates the benefits of mindfulness for issues like anxiety and depression, and I can see why. It only took a few classes for me to begin feeling the effects. After one, I went home and sobbed my heart out. I cried like I never have before. I think my body and mind were releasing some kind of pent-up tension or negative energy I’d been holding on to. That only happened the one time, but still after every class I can feel the effects.
My trial has ended, and I’ve signed up for their unlimited class package. While I’m not exactly swimming in extra money to afford this, it’s a worthwhile investment in myself. There are a lot of things I can write about on this topic, and I’ll address them in the future. For now, though, I want to celebrate the positive step I’ve taken by engaging in this new activity.
*The title of this post comes from my favorite t-shirts, but it’s also fairly true, since my primary goals relate to meditation and mindfulness.
**Please note, I started yoga while at the same time working with my psychiatrist and therapist to address my problems. There is no replacement for proper medical care.