Over the last three years, my husband and I have been through a considerable amount of stress, including:
- Two difficult business disputes, both requiring lawyers, loads of energy and a ton of money that we didn’t have.
- Building a house, which went really, really badly (note to readers: never, ever build a house).
- Seven months’ worth of (much-loved) visitors within a year, whilst living in the house that wasn’t quite yet finished (we had no front door for a lot of that).
- Oh, and I opened a yoga studio, whilst teaching at and helping to manage another.
I felt as though I was taking most of it in my stride, and at times I even felt like I was thriving on the additional adrenaline coursing through my system. In fact, when the business disputes came to an end, I actually felt a little bit of a void as I’d become so used to the drama and excitement.
However, on one fateful day, it all came crashing down. It was quite unexpected, as that morning, I’d been out for a walk and was feeling quite good. But I walked in the door (we had a door by this time!) and was presented with a number of new problems relating to our house. These particular problems were no worse, no bigger, no more outrageous than any we’d already been dealing with. But it was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
Before I knew it, I’d collapsed on the bedroom floor, sobbing and hyperventilating, quivering and shaking, completely unable to do anything else. I tried to put myself in Legs-Up-The-Wall pose (famous for helping to cure anxiety) but my body wouldn’t move out from a weird, hunched up version of Child’s Pose.
Luckily, with all my training, I knew what to do:
- I let go of control. Once I figured out that even Legs-Up-The-Wall wasn’t going to cut it (a big sign that something serious was going on), I knew I had to let go of control and trust that my body knew what to do. We forget that our bodies are actually pretty darned smart, and we often try to force the rational part of our brains to be in charge. But in this instance, my body needed to do what it needed to do. So I stayed on the floor, in my weird Child’s Pose, shaking and sobbing, utterly out of control. My husband says I was there for an hour or more, but I don’t have any concrete memory of it. It was pretty scary, but I yielded to some inner wisdom and let it all happen.
- I breathed. For the next few days, I focussed most of my attention on my breath. If you spend any time with me, you know I’m all about the exhale, so I did a lot of gentle breathing out (sighing felt too forceful, too strong, in my weakened state). Often, I used a technique that is common in yoga and meditation – counting backwards from 27 with each in breath and each out breath (so it goes: 27 in, 27 out; 26 in, 26 out; and so on). I found this incredibly useful in helping to bring out that calmer version of me that I knew was in there somewhere.
- I did yoga. I went to loads of yoga classes, as many as I could get my hands on. I joined a studio down the road that I didn’t even like that much, just so I could be on the mat with someone guiding my body into different shapes, reminding my body of how it could feel again. I took care to only do very gentle classes (who am I kidding, I only ever do gentle classes!), but boy did I do a lot of them.
- I did Yoga Nidra until the cows came home. Yoga Nidra is one of my favourite things, one of the reasons I teach yoga and love it so goddamned much! Yoga Nidra is magical, I often say there’s some kind of witch-craft embedded into it. It’s often known as The Anxiety Antidote, and I know from experience this is true. Yoga Nidra works really deeply inside your brain, almost helping you to re-set the negative pathways that have been created. My favourite Yoga Nidra recording is done by my friend, Debbie Cairns from The StillPoint. You can access it here on Insight Timer (free to sign up). Or you can listen to my own recording available for free in my online studio. If you’re an Avalon local, check my timetable and come along to a class in-person).