Everyone who knows me well can easily see that I’m always thinking. Analyzing. Predicting. Wondering. Stressing.
For a long time I begged my soul to calm down, but my anxiety to be perfect in all aspects of my life could easily be triggered by a ruminating thought about a future event I couldn’t control.
I believed that if I thought about every possible scenario, I could somehow control the outcome. Maybe soften the blow.
Maybe I wouldn’t end up disappointed.
This chronic pattern of overthinking made me question every move I made and I forgot how to trust myself and my capability to make sound decisions. In a world where messages about perfection are constantly being reflected back to me in the form of carefully crafted Instagram posts, I felt like somehow I wasn’t enough.
I didn’t exude the same confidence I once had because I was too busy thinking in circles about what someone might think of me. Wouldn’t share my story or use my voice because it would quiver out of the fear that I would say something wrong. Insecurities were etched in my skin and I carried them everywhere.
I always had a difficult relationship with yoga.
I would start a class at the insistence of my friends and find it unenjoyable because I wasn’t able to breathe correctly and my mind was wandering on all of the work I could be doing. In the midst of a wave of transitions in my life – moving, starting a Ph.D. program – I knew that I had to find a sense of balance and peace within, even if the world around me would not stop spinning.
When a free yoga class was offered at my university, I decided to take advantage.
As I scoffed at friends who swore by the yoga hype, I started to think maybe I needed a practice in my life that would hold me accountable to slowing down. I thought I would fall into the trap of my old patterns of overthinking and letting my mind drift; however, I challenged myself to be mindful of how my body and mind responded to the instructor’s promptings. Much to my surprise, I didn’t have to be constantly in motion to be productive.
By being still, I could tap into my inner self, who flourishes when drowning out external noise.
Although it was gradual, each week I was able to sit more comfortably in each pose, be more present, and was actually able to breathe instead of holding on to tension.
There were times when I felt out of place. It wasn’t easy to be mindful. But, my instructor would always remind us, “No matter how far you fall, you’re only a few feet from the mat.”
I think about this advice often.
In life, no matter how far we fall, or how badly we perceive our failures, we are only a few feet from the mat or cushion that will comfort us until we are ready to try again.
The fall is never the end. It may leave an uncomfortable bruise, but pain heals and is necessary to have a full appreciation of joy.
Now, as I begin to overthink a situation or feel that old rush of anxiety, I breathe out in three counts and murmur, “I am only a few feet from the mat.”
On the mat I am whole. I am present and I am worthy of all of God’s gifts. I let the inner light pour from within outward. I challenge myself, fall down, and regain my position. Recognizing that falling means taking chances and pushing myself to be just a little bit better and stronger than I was before.
I slow down and recognize the power of each stance and the gratitude of each breath signaling that I am still alive and thriving.
Now, with each pose I’ve grown physically and mentally stronger.
My confidence in my ability to bounce back, regardless of the challenges I face in life, is symbolic of the lessons I’ve learned; repeating positive affirmations to myself daily, and thanking my body for the things it can do, rather than scolding it for what it cannot. Because of this, I’ve completed training to teach others, like me, to love themselves and their bodies through the transformative power of mindfulness and movement.
As I breathe through each moment and truly learn to let the oxygen dance through my lungs, I remember to not take any moment, or myself, for granted.
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