Anxiety - yoga, meditation, mosh pits and hot springs

Okayama, Japan

In Japan I had karaoke, mosh pits, hot springs, beautiful gardens, quiet commutes and multi-day hikes done alone. Here there are so few karaoke boxes. I would never mosh here or hike alone and the hot springs are few and far between.... Yoga and meditation have been what has kept me sane living here in Australia.

I have always been stressed, competitive, trying to fit as much in as possible into each day. I'd always cycled, then while living in Japan I also gymed, hiked, karaoked, moshed and even crowd-surfed just before I left Japan. Things that helped burn the stress out of the system but at the same time added more time pressures.

I would always fit in a bit extra work on the side to save those few extra pennies so I could travel, eat something amazing or save up the deposit for a house.

I have always been a worrier. Imagining every scenario that could possible go wrong (and then a few more). Every now and then I'd watch one of those movies you watch when you want to have a good cry - Dead Poet's Society, The Joy Luck Club, anything with rescued animals in it. A good cry would let all the stress out and I could hold it all together for a bit longer.

The karaoke and the shouting at J-punk concerts was probably some of the best stress relief - being able to shout out everything kept in for so long, without everyone thinking you're a nut case. We even had a couple of bands whose lyrics would bring enough people to tears that you could sneak out a few tears and not stand out.

When I came back to Brisbane, the population had doubled. It had become too dangerous and stressful to cycle on the roads. Housing prices had gone stupid. My job here was much less satisfying than in Japan due to the nature of the industry here. I went to the closest yoga studio to my house, which happened to be hot yoga. Extremely hot at times. It appealed to my competitive spirit. It made me quite flexible quite quickly. The people were lovely.

But I hated it. I dreaded going. I would be angry at the teacher if the room was hotter than usual (40-42 instead of 38-ish). I was relieved to finish class. It added stress as I only had 15 minutes from the end of class until my train to work in which to shower and bolt to the station. If class finished late I was late to work which added further stress. I HAD to go because I had paid a membership - which I chose to do so I would go.

An Ayurvedic (traditional Indian medicine) practitioner suggested that that style of yoga was too aggravating for me. I found a regular hatha class. I couldn't believe it. Yoga was enjoyable. Yoga was relaxing. Yoga was not about getting to the 'perfect picture' of the pose. But it was a bit weird (for the first 6 weeks anyway) that we had to chant.

I still worry. I got to a point where my anxiety was worse due to noise where I was living and then because of my role at work. Because of yoga and meditation - more breath, mind and body awareness - I was more aware that I didn't need to feel like that. That I shouldn't feel like that all the time. And that I was heading towards a massive train wreck if I didn't do something about it.

It still felt like a train wreck, but I did not end up in hospital. I have managed to stay on herbs and avoid prescription medication.

But if I stop yoga or meditation
If I jam too much into the day or week.
If I don't sleep well.
I can see the warning signs again. I am not so pleasant to live with.
I have to refuse a few invitations - I love to see everyone but I can't cope with larger groups.
I have to keep myself in quieter places.
I can't put myself in busy, noisy places.
I can't do too much, too often.

I feel more alive, more comfortable, more energised when I go to yoga, to teach or to participate, if I go to meditation or if I just spend 10 minutes trying out some different chords and melodies on the guitar (I am NOT a musician. I am not particularly musical. It is very hard for me to play and chant.)

If I do these things I can see things more clearly. I can step back from the hyper-negativity, the excessive worry, that hyper-emotive state brought on by the anxiety.

We all need some time and stillness for ourselves. I have yoga and meditation as mine. I would love to do more tai chi and qi gong, but it would push me back into stress through over-filling my days.
But I know there will be time for it at the best time for it.

Sam SeghersComment