I’m sure you’ve figured this out by now, but I’m a yoga teacher. There is often an image tied to this profession of a supremely peaceful spirit being illuminated through a perfectly yoga-toned body. And although I think teachers all over are breaking barriers about body image (yay us!), the idea of that serene spirit is still connected to the words “yoga teacher”. I think that is rarely expected that someone in my profession might be stressed out; and people are even less prepared to hear that I LOVE being stressed out. I genuinely love it.
I thrive in anxiety.
My production level is off the charts when I am under stress.
I feel pressure and am pushed forward to take action.
No one expects to hear that, but it’s true.
I don’t believe that all stress is bad, especially when it helps to increase my level of productivity. But I know myself…I tend to take things a little too far. Give me an inch of anxiety and I’ll stretch into miles of a long, sweaty, stressful, uphill climb to the top of a really steep mountain. When I get there I’ll look around for a moment and search for a taller mountain to climb. Once I climb that one I’ll look for something steeper.
Eventually I get tired of climbing and I crash. My body gives out and it’s like I just roll all the way down those mountains as if I’m a tumble weed. When I get to the bottom, I lay there for a few days…paralyzed from exhaustion. And when I wake up I feel concerned that I’m at the bottom of a mountain and rapidly start the process all over again.
I go through phases. Sometimes I use my anxiety to exercise excessively – which people view to be “discipline” but is often just obsessive compulsiveness. Perhaps I put all of my efforts into a cleanse – which is generally my way of trying to deal with my intense desire to starve myself, connected to years of intentional nutrition deprivation. Most recently my anxiety strongly revolves around my work. How many things can I say “yes” to before my body gives out?
About 8 months ago I began having some really strange symptoms that I couldn’t figure out how to control. For someone with OCD, not being able to figure out how to control my own body is incredibly overwhelming. I went to doctors who couldn’t really connect the symptoms together and I was given steroids – just as I have been on and off many times in my life when these strange mystery symptoms would occur. But this time the steroids didn’t work.
I was crashing hard. My energy level was completely depleted and I needed a way to feel better. Thank god, my anxious nature kept me persistently searching the (amazingly vast) internet for answers. I eventually came across something that would, accidentally, nudge me in the right direction. From there I found ways to lessen the symptoms and a nutritionist to help me heal.
I found out that I have histamine intolerance which exists in my body because of SIBO (small intestine bacterial overgrowth). I was experiencing about 90% of the symptoms that can occur with both of these issues and feeling absolutely horrible.
So horrible that I had to rest. A LOT! And it’s been through this rest that I have begun to better appreciate moments of calm. Not only do I feel a little less anxious over all, but I feel like I’m starting to figure out how to productively use my stress to move me forward without burning out so badly. Most importantly I am learning to enjoy rest without feeling the weight of guilt pressing on my lungs – tempting me to go back to my old ways of pushing hard to yield results.
I can’t help but be reminded of a part from “Eat Pray Love” when the Italians are teasing Americans for being so high stress and they use the phrase “Dolce far Niente” – which means “the sweetness of doing nothing”. I like that a lot. Over the past few weeks I use the mantra “work smarter, not harder.” Something that I teach to my students everyday is that difficulty does not equal efficiency. Hilariously enough, it took me a few years to apply that method of practice to my life.
But I think that’s how yoga works. You learn something and you practice it on your mat, or on your meditation cushion, over and over and over until one day it really clicks. Then your whole life makes a little bit more sense. I’m in love with yoga for that reason.
Yoga teaches contentment. Not the ability to just “be fine” with everything, but to find gratitude in all of life’s lessons. I’m pretty sure that I will always love stress, but I’m starting to fall in love with the sweetness of nothing a little more each day.
Surely I’m not the only one who feels this way! Share you story in the comment section below! Thanks for reading.