Whether I have a million tasks to get done or have absolutely nothing to do, the presence of anxiety seems to be constantly looming. My go-to in order to manage anxiety was always running or working out. During an intense workout, I would experience peace as it was one of the few activities that would take me out of the racing thoughts in my head. However, having struggled with a restrictive eating disorder, the option of exercising or exerting tremendous physical energy was no longer sustainable. I tried several other coping skills, such as coloring, reading, and walking outside, but none were as helpful as the practice of yoga. I had been introduced to yoga while in an inpatient eating disorder treatment center, but at the time despised the idea of laying still on a mat during which catastrophic thoughts overwhelmed my mind. However, months after discharging from intensive treatment, I knew I had to find a healthy, balanced way of coping with anxiety, if I wanted to maintain the progress I had made in my recovery. This is when I decided to give yoga another try.
I read somewhere that it takes 8 weeks of practice in order to make something a habit. So that is what I set out to try with the practice of yoga. Every other day, I made time to take out my mat, and practice various forms of yoga. Some days, I tried a meditative aspect to yoga by listening to guided meditations while laying down. Other days, I did vinyasa flow routines by watching videos on YouTube. For every day I took the incentive to take out my mat and practice, whether that be for 5 minutes or an hour, I put a smiley face sticker on a calendar in my room! This continued for only a couple weeks, until practicing yoga became engrained in my everyday routine.
At first, yoga was not an efficient tool in relieving the anxieties I held. It was more like a chore to check off my to-do list. But with practice, yoga has become an effective outlet for the stress and tension I hold in my body. While moving through poses, I actively think about the functions my body performs in order to keep me living. This in turn has helped me find more gratitude for my body as whole, which gratefully has decreased the intensity of body dysmorphia I regularly struggle with. I set aside “yoga time” as my time in the day to consciously release any worries, fears or anticipations I am holding. Whenever a thought about an upcoming exam or an undermining self-belief pops up, I try to bring myself back into the present and solely focus my attention on moving deeper into a pose. With consistent practice, my body and mind soon integrated, automatically connecting yoga with mindfulness and serenity. Fitness posters, athletic brands and media usually portray specific types of yoga, but there are several different forms out there and can be tailored to meet our mental and physical needs. So don’t give up on the idea after one class or one try. Practice creates habit!