I’m a yogi and sometimes I have down days. I feel defeated. I wonder how I’m going to make it through another day. Occasionally I even feel like the world is against me.
When I admit this to close friends and family, they’re often surprised. They believe that yogis like myself have overcome our demons. That we do yoga because we have all this time now that we’ve “improved” ourselves.
It’s understandable; I had a similar take on yogis before I started practicing. I thought yogis were always at peace with themselves and their surroundings, and I was a bit jealous of their perceived tranquility.
As a student and teacher of yoga, I’m happy to say, I was wrong. Yoga doesn't deliver you to perfection; instead it shows you the work that has yet to be done.
I’ve struggled with an anxiety and panic disorder for over 15 years. My original diagnosis came when I was only 14. From then until now, I’ve battled smoking, depression, an accidental overdose, and an addiction to anti-anxiety medication. About three years ago, while I was struggling to cope with my anxiety and addiction, I was also wrestling with thoughts of suicide.
Since making adjustments to my diet, exercising regularly, becoming a juicing advocate and adopting a daily yoga practice, my darker days are behind me. But, in no way does that mean that I always have perfectly happy days, smiling to my next yoga session.
Sometimes I worry about relapsing. Sometimes I question my will to continue fighting. Some days, I just wake up on the wrong side of the bed, and no amount of sun salutations or pranayama breaths can remedy that.
My lifestyle change happened because I needed it to, not because I wanted it to. It was literally a life-or-death situation. As much as I enjoy where I am in my journey, I can never act as if the battle is over.
Yoga helps calm the negative thoughts in my head, but yoga is not my cure. It does not make me a perfect person. My lifestyle has enabled me to accept my flaws, while embracing my infirmity. My instructor explained to me that pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional. She helped me understand that the problem isn’t the presence of imperfection, but more so my reaction to it that gave it its power.
I start my day by silently reminding myself, “today will not be the day that I go backwards.” I walk through life in a constant state of contradiction. I act as if I don’t have an anxiety disorder, all while consciously avoiding anything that could trigger it.
I can’t enjoy the simple luxury of going out to a random restaurant with friends and eating whatever I want. I have to be aware of everything I consume. For me, an innocent meal can turn into an anxiety or panic attack that lasts for hours. I worry about eating something my body may reject, thus triggering an anxiety attack.
I spend my days helping people adopt healthy lifestyle habits, assist them in their weight loss journey, start a juicing regimen, become more active, etc. Whatever the goal, I help them reach it.
But when the weights are put away, the yoga mat is rolled up and the juicer is turned off, I’m back to battling my vulnerability. I’m forced to confront my fear of relapse. I return to anxiety management. Back to the mandatory responsibility of calming the distressed thoughts in my head in search of solitude and comfort.
I don’t want to sell you on the idea that yoga made my life impeccable, because it didn’t. The fact remains that I am still an addict and I still have an anxiety and panic disorder. I still have to work daily to remain sober and not allow my disorder or my disease to consume my life. What helps is that I no longer classify myself by my weakness, instead I consider myself the exception. I’m grateful that my trials have led me to this lifestyle.