When we ask someone how they are doing most times the person’s response, is “fine”. You know the quote “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about”? It’s mostly true. We never know what someone is going through unless we ask. And when we ask, you must be prepared for the answer. Once you get that answer no matter how icky it makes you feel, it is then your job to hold space for that other person. Why? Because I want you to think back to when someone did this for you. Close your eyes, imagine a time in your life when you were struggling. Did you keep it all in? Or did you open to someone you trust. We need to be reciprocal for the people that matter to us. When we aren’t ok we say we are fine because we worry about how the other person will respond or react. And God forbid we say how we are in case we get looked at like we have something on our faces, or the other person runs away faster than Usain Bolt running the 100-meter dash. It is time to change how we respond to someone else’s emotions because of how it makes you feel. Unless it’s directed at you of course and that is another blog topic.
My therapist told me recently, “Fuck it, Tiffany. Why not just say how you are feeling? People need to understand where you are coming from even if it makes them feel uncomfortable” Good Point. But there are times, I am so exhausted in my own grief that I just don’t want to talk about it and say I’m fine even when I’m not. Since my brother’s death five weeks ago, my husband asks me daily, how I am doing. He knows damn well how I am doing. I know he is doing this to make sure that I know he’s there for me. Being the smart ass that I am, I want to respond at times with “How the fuck do you think I am doing?” He isn’t the only one though. This happens a lot when your world flips upside down. You don’t know which way is up. Loss does this. You do everything you can to keep it together when really you should be allowing for the emotions to flow when they come. Cry when you feel it happening, laugh when something is funny.
No, I am not ok. I don’t know when I will be. Each loss I have experienced creates new complex layers about myself that when I think about going through another loss, it scares me more. Loss is inevitable though, so in the meantime as I process the death of my only brother, whom I loved more than anything, I will do my best to answer someone honestly when they ask how I am. With faith, and the work that grief entails, my life is forever changed. But I am here to say we are resilient and can move through horrible events in our lives if we are willing to ask for help, and tell the people around us, we are not ok. So before responding “fine” to “How are you?” Try opening up instead.
Parenting is hard. I’ve been doing it for 14 years now. 7 of which I was on my own as a single mom of two. My boys were 4 and 7 when my husband came into our lives. He was the first person my kids were introduced to. I didn’t know where it would go, but I knew that if he were going to be in our lives he had to take me plus 2 equals 3. See, when you divorce with kids, it is a journey that is different for everyone. It could be amicable, and share joint custody, or kids every other weekend to the opposite parent. Or, it could be downright messy and uncertain. Which I won’t get into because that was my situation. There is no need to waste any energy on that mess. However, your divorce was, or if you are going through one, I am sorry. No one deserves it, and I don’t wish it upon anyone.
Fast forward, to today. Our boys are 14 and 10 ¾. It’s been 7 years together as a blended family and nearly every day I consider myself one of the lucky ones. Yes, we seek help from professionals when we need it. Yes, we don’t agree on how each other parents some of the time. But, we are navigating the best we know how. I think one of the main reasons of that, is when Steve and I married he took the boys as his own. Yes, technically he’s their step-dad, but he said vows to them as well as me. He took an oath to be their dad. It didn’t matter if he were biologically their father or not. Oh, and yes, he’s gotten the “you’re not my real dad” statement from our oldest recently. But, I like to believe it was because he’s testing his boundaries. Either way, my husband hasn’t faltered. He continues to try, and he always does it with love. We face obstacles. But, the obstacles we face we go through together and never over or under. We face what it is that's difficult. It is definitely harder now than it was when they were little. There are more questions and more boundaries to be pushed. Teenage years are upon us and we are navigating this as a unit because it is the only way. But, like I said, I’m one of the lucky ones.
So, wherever you are in your journey as a blended family-I am here to tell you it’s not perfect. It is certainly not for us. And, on some days we feel like we’re fucking up. But, we aren’t. We’re doing the best we can in the best way we know how. I believe that if we let go of the perception of what a blended family should look like than what it actually is-then together we can all see that we are doing a good job. There are no mistakes. Only lessons to be learned and forward movement. With a solid foundation our kids can see the united front that all blended families can achieve and experience.
In the time, I have been a yoga teacher, I have received many emails and have had conversations with students and teachers alike that when they started practicing yoga they were very intimidated to go to a class. There were many reasons why, but the one that stood out most to me-was time and time again someone would say, they didn’t know what they were doing and didn’t want to look like a fool.
These same people finally gussied up the courage to go to a class only to have their fears confirmed. Either the teacher didn’t have enough knowledge to see there was a new student in their class, or they just didn’t notice. I hear this a lot and I too was one of these students when I began my practice years ago. Granted now that I teach, it became my passion to teach to those students that wanted to discover a practice so I teach beginner yoga, as well as gentle and restorative so I make it a point to see if there is someone new in my class and help them to feel accepted without drawing too much attention. It is our job as yoga teachers to make everyone who attends classes to feel accepted so they will come back. I am not sure if you know this but the more people you have in your classes the more money you will make. If that isn’t incentive, I don’t know what is. I am not getting rich off of teaching yoga but I still have mouths to feed at home including my own.
It upsets me to hear that teachers aren’t taking time to nurture new students. In western medicine this is called bed side manner. If you have a doctor that isn’t kind to you and solely focused on the diagnosis or opinion without taking the time to nurture their patients, then more than likely you will seek out someone who is nicer, or you get turned off and feel that all doctors are the same. We as yoga teachers have a responsibility to nurture, and help create an environment where all students are created equally. Now-some teachers could say- “well if I have a student in my class that is new to yoga and I am teaching a more advanced practice, than they shouldn’t be there. “Well my response is- it doesn’t matter. If you are a good teacher than you are creating a safe space for everyone to feel welcome no matter their experience level.
So please, as a new student, or a well experienced one, it is your job to speak up. If an instructor isn’t teaching the style of class that was described or your fears of not wanting to go back are confirmed, because the teacher isn’t noticing, then please write or call your studio, and tell them. It only makes us better teachers when we can hear and be open to this feedback. Our yoga practice is here to serve our bodies and minds and honesty is the foundation of the relationships that we build in our lives on and off the mat.
The Panicked Yogi seems counter intuitive, doesn’t it? Well, I am coming to learn that suffering from panic attacks in the yoga world is more common than I thought. As yogi’s or more specifically yoga teachers-we are looked at sometimes as more than your average human. We are looked at as though we are constantly strong and spiritual enough to hold space for others that are suffering. But silently some of us, including me- suffer silently.
I have experienced bouts of anxiety on and off since my mid 20’s. When I had my first panic attack I thought I was dying. I was sitting in a restaurant with my then 8-month-old son, and my ex-husband when the room started spinning. I quickly got outside and sat on a curb and hyperventilated. The sensations I was experiencing eventually passed but without the worry that something was seriously wrong with me. We later boarded a plane to head home from California where we were visiting, and it happened again! Only this time I was on an airplane and 30,000 feet in the air. The flight attendants quickly cleared a row for me to lay down and they called for a doctor on board. He looked me over, my heart rate was high and blood pressure low. We eventually landed the plane with EMT’s waiting. After them giving me an assessment and taking vitals they told me I was fine and hyperventilated. I thought they were crazy! But they weren’t, I learned that what I was going through was adrenaline rushing through my body created by stress. Which, caused me to sweat, hyperventilate, and my heart to race- among other things. I took the necessary steps to heal with individual therapy, breath work, and acupuncture. That healing didn’t happen overnight. It took a couple of years. That’s right, a couple of years.
Fast forward, here I am 12 years later and silently suffering again. Except this time, I am super self-aware. I have 15 years of a yoga practice under my belt, yoga teacher training and other modalities that give me the ability to examine and express. Except being super self-aware as I am can be daunting because, even a yogi’s mind can over think. I have learned this time around my anxiety stems back to my childhood and there are places in me that have never healed. You may say well how come it has taken this long for it to come up? My reasoning has been this-there are some of us who have had messed up childhoods or an area in our early lives that wasn’t perfect so we chalk that up to being normal. But the reality is, if we don’t heal from those past hurts they become a part of us in ways when we are grown. Like, why we are afraid of being alone, fear of abandonment, scared of something bad happening-all symptoms of anxiety by the way.
It is only now that I can confront these things that are standing in my way of reaching my full potential. It is with my breath, my inner work, and telling that young girl that is still a part of me that she is loved. I have learned throughout this process that I am not alone. There is an average of 40 million Americans who suffer with anxiety and panic attacks and that is just what is recorded. I hope that through my expression we can unite and come together and start to have open conversations about what it is that we need mentally and emotionally.
The wisdom I have on this besides sharing my story, is that if you are reading this, and are one of those people who suffer from anxiety and or panic attacks, you are not alone. I am here for you if you feel no one else is. When we feel, we don’t have a lifeline, know that there is always someone rooting for you in your corner.
Tiffany (RYT 200®) is a student and teacher of yoga living in Baltimore, Maryland.
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