How Yoga Changed My Life

In my last year of college in 1997 I was working nearly full-time and going to school full-time. I worked in the Employee Relations Department of a large bank where I was doing a variety of Human Resources related clerical tasks. One day I was working on a huge mailing for all this bank’s branches in the US. I did these mailings fairly regularly as they were for the posters that employer’s must post to be in line with state and federal laws regarding minimum wage, work hours and such. Suddenly my boss came in the room and began undoing hours of work by emptying envelopes that I had already filled, addressed and was just getting ready to seal. This was the beginning of a very long down turn in my life.

Sitting at my desk I was suddenly overwhelmed by frightening sensations; my heart was racing, I broke out in a cold sweat while at the same time I was experiencing what felt like rapid changes in body temperature; I was hot one second and cold the next, I was sick to my stomach and immediately all I wanted to do was get up and run away. It was my first experience with the “fight or flight” response. I thought I was having a heart attack, and when a short time later I went to my boss and told her how I was feeling her response was, “Well maybe you need to go and talk to” and she named her boss’ name. I realized immediately I was getting no help from that quarter. I later learned I had had a severe panic attack that day, though not my first as I came to understand, just the worst I’d had up to that point.

My first thought was that I would get through it, I’d had them before and I would just ignore it as I had in the past, and they would go away. I was wrong, they didn’t go away, in fact they got even worse to the point that I couldn’t eat, sleep or function. I was skipping classes, and calling in sick to work because I was getting a feeling of being trapped which was exacerbating my panic attacks. It was then I knew I had to do something. My first trip was to the school psychologist whose only real solution was to put me on drugs for anxiety, and give me a relaxation tape. This was little to no help. My next trip was to the emergency room where the doctor after examining me told me that not only was I suffering from extreme anxiety, but sometime recently I’d had an allergic reaction to something because my uvula and throat were red and slightly swollen. This explained why I’d been having trouble breathing. This doctor prescribed the drug Xanax for the short-term which did help me to begin to relax, but since it is highly addictive I could not take it for very long. I knew I had to find another solution.

Once I got to the point I could no longer take the Xanax, which I hadn’t wanted to take in the first place but which at the time seemed to be my only choice, I started looking for drug-free solutions. This entailed quite a bit of research at the library and online trying to understand what exactly had happened to me and why. The long and the short of it is that I overdid it; I overscheduled my classes, my work, and had little to no down time. Finally my body let me know it had had quite enough. Hence, the panic attacks, the agoraphobia I developed (a fear of going outside, or leaving your home) and a myriad of other symptoms such as a tight chest, a racing heart, insomnia and lack of appetite to name a few.

Armed with a complete understanding of exactly what had happened (no thanks to either the ER doctor or the school Psychologist who clearly didn’t have a clue) I began to put a plan into action that would bring my mind, and body back into balance without the use of medications which I discovered were often addicting, and compounded the problem by simply masking it rather than curing it, and that would keep me there. After doing all that research I knew I couldn’t just do the plan for a short time and then stop, it had to be something that I was willing to continue doing for life if I wanted to remain panic attack free, or at the very least reduce the severity of any panic attack I might have.

While I implemented many things including cutting all caffeine from my diet which I discovered I was overly sensitive to, quitting my job and concentrating on my studies, taking an herbal remedy with relaxation and stress-reducing herbs, going to a traditional American Indian medicine woman, and finally, and this one thing was what tipped the scales in my favor, I signed up for two yoga classes. That meant I was in Yoga classes for an hour 4 times a week. One of the classes was for Restorative Yoga, which is specifically designed for stress-relief and relaxation, and the other was for Hatha Yoga which uses poses, meditation and breathing exercises to achieve good health. Out of the all the other things I did to work to get my body and mind back into balance, Yoga was the one thing that I truly believed saved my life because it taught me both how to breath when I begin to become stressed, and how to relax.

Within weeks of going to these classes the incidences of severe panic attacks became fewer and farther between, and I had periods of intense relaxation such that I had not had in years, and probably not since before I had decided to go back to school. About a month and a half into these classes my teacher actually came up to me and commented on the fact that I had been wound up very tightly when I showed up to the first class, and that she could see I was far more relaxed than I had been. I had found my drug-free cure.

I have continued to practice Yoga for the last ten years, and while I have had the occasional period where I might go a week without doing it, it is never longer than that. Within a year I was completely back to normal, completely feeling like myself, and nearly panic attack free. My appetite came back full force, as did my ability to go to sleep; no more insomnia. I feel certain that had I followed the doctor’s course of drugs and therapy alone I would not have had the same success. I think instead that it was a combination of things which lead to this success, yoga being the biggest part of that success. Put simply without my regular Yoga practice, I would not be where I am today, doing what I love to do. I’m not sure where I would be, just that wherever that place is, I’m not interested in going there. Yoga changed my life, and it can change yours too!

Abouth the Author:

Regina Paul is a full-time freelance writer, and author. Her latest book is Recession Proof Your Income, Become a Freelance Writer Today!

Source: Associated Content

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