This may seem like an obvious statement, but yoga and stress just don’t go together. I’ve never come across a stressed-out yogi. And I noticed one of my yoga-loving friends, who drives across town and battles the freeway every single day, always has a glowing smile and radiates happiness. So I wondered: what’s her secret? And how can I find that joy and contentment, too?
I’m a ball of stress. I think I was born that way. I’ve always admired people who could just go with the flow and roll with whatever obstacles life throws their way. So in my quest for inner peace, and out of jealousy for those who can deal with everyday life without turning to a package of Double Stuf Oreos, I began my journey toward a more relaxed, carefree life.
Now, I know not everyone thinks as neurotically as me. I’m a chronic worry wart, but it was time to change. I wanted a healthy life free from high blood pressure meds, gnawing ulcers and nerve-wracking hair loss.
So how do I start? Well, since yoga is supposed to be so great at clearing the mind and centering one’s being, I decided to try it. Besides, I thought it would be fun. What I didn’t expect was how challenging it would be.
Here are six reasons why yoga stresses me out:
1. Getting to class on time.
I’m a Type-A personality and like to get to places ten minutes early. I hate being late. But for some reason I can’t seem to get to class and have that 10-minute grace period to wander the yoga studio, enjoy a complimentary tea and get into my Zen space. Instead I’m usually cursing at the red lights, battling the traffic and sweating it out trying to find street parking. (And yes, I do account for the extra time it takes to drive those five miles. But LA traffic… ugh!)
I manage to get to class just under the wire when everyone already has their mats laid out, blankets and blocks nearby and are quietly sitting in Half Lotus. So right out of the gate, my goal of being more calm and relaxed is foiled. My heart is racing, my brows are furrowed and, on more than one occasion, I panic halfway through class because I can’t remember if I put money in the meter.
2. Making sure my toes are polished.
Okay. Go ahead and say it: “That’s ridiculous.” Well, if you’ve been trying to grow out an ugly yellow toenail from a minor foot injury then you might understand. And nothing grows slower than a toenail; except maybe your hair after a traumatic experience at the beauty salon.
I can deal if my toe polish is chipped and I’m wearing sneakers. Who cares? But when that toenail chips off its red disguise and has the audacity to show itself in public, I’m mortified. No one will notice my nine perfectly polished little piggies. They’ll notice the ugly porker on my left foot. That’ll be the day I’m stuck rolling out my mat next to the cutest guy in class.
3. Passing gas in class.
Did I mention I can be paranoid? I try to eat a healthy diet with lots of veggies. So, in order not to embarrass myself, I avoid eating any gas-producing foods twenty-four hours before class. Yes, 24 hours. Better to err on the side of caution than to have to relinquish my monthly membership and find a new yoga studio where nobody knows my name. I can’t imagine anything more embarrassing than letting one rip in the middle of a Tree Pose. And I hope I never have to. But, I admit, I’ve come very close.
4. Doing Downward Dog in my fat yoga pants.
When laundry piles up and my only clothing options are my flannel Christmas-themed pajama bottoms or my ill-fitting yoga pants stuffed in the way back of my closet, I hope to God that I’ll get to class early so I can claim my spot in the very back of the room. At least then I can keep my wedgie in check and not subject anyone to stare at my conspicuously divided butt cheeks.
5. Realizing I forgot to shave my pits.
Hey, it happens. I’m guilty of sometimes shaving only to accommodate my wardrobe needs, like when I’m wearing a sleeveless blouse or tank top. And in wintertime, shaving is naturally lower on my priority list. Why suffer razor burn if I don’t have to? (By the way, if you know of a good way to avoid this, please let me know.) Sometimes my instinct to check my pits before I race to class escapes me and I wind up looking like Chewbacca in a Dakini tunic. When this happens I have two choices: Either suck it up or fake an injury, like double dislocated shoulders where I can’t raise my arms over my head. Vanity can be a horrible thing.
6. Watching the clock.
It takes me a good twenty minutes or so to stop staring at the clock and wishing time would pass faster so I can get on with my to-do list. This pent-up feeling of “gotta go, gotta do, gotta accomplish” usually silences somewhere around my tenth Sun Salutation. Then I notice I’m focusing more on my breathing and less on the slow-spinning big hand. But as The Fates would have it, the last fifteen minutes of class always seem to fly by at lightning speed. So there must be something to this yoga stuff.
I know I stress out over many things, which is why I started taking yoga in the first place. I just wasn’t prepared for all the added (self-imposed) stresses I’d have to deal with. But I’m not ready to throw in the towel just yet. I believe there’s hope for me. If I just keep going to class I’ll round that corner. Hopefully my anxiety will decrease and the mind chatter will stop. It has to, right?
My goal is to sleep soundly. Even when I pay a bill one day late or I go 500 miles over my recommended oil change.
The truth is, I do feel better after yoga class. My breathing is deeper and more steady. I feel grounded, like I can handle things with more confidence and strength. So I’ll keep going. And hopefully these six things that still stress me out will soon disappear… without the help of an Oreo fix.