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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