Mental Yoga

You have heard it before that yoga is an integration of mind, body, spirit. It takes practice and time for the subtle, yet powerful benefits to embed themselves in the various places of the Self. The physical benefits are usually the first ones that you notice. Truth be told, it is fun to be stronger and in better shape. However, it is the deeper layers of the cellular structure that are not obvious until situations arise that really show what your yoga practice has accomplished.

Before I found yoga, I went through a period of having panic attacks. If you have not had one, it is crippling at all levels. The heart starts to feel a slight piercing of a knife in the middle of it. That pierce turns into a tight grip and it feels like the heart is using every ounce of strength to squeeze any blood it can to keep you alive. Your sense of control goes haywire and the energy of fear overtakes every cell. Rational thinking is covered with a dark blanket. You want to escape. The problem cannot escape from your mind.

It was shortly after I started doing yoga that the panic attacks receded into non-existence.  I never expected to have to face another one as long as I lived. Wrong.

A lot of us have issues with family. The holidays are notorious for causing stress. Personality differences, past conflicts and decreased tolerance levels are common instigators. Granted, we learn a lot from family experiences; however, when nothing seems to makes it hard to manifest the movie image of the family that adores being together. I am one of those people who will honestly say that family has been one of my chief sources of stress. But, that is a whole other subject.

I share this because after Thanksgiving, panic unexpectedly reared its ugly head again. It may have been six years, but I knew that feeling in the heart too well. I had just gotten onto the plane to head home after spending five long days with family. It had some good points; but, the truth is, I had to work really hard to keep my patience and tolerance in check. I was thrilled to get on the plane and anxiously awaited for take off. Then, without warning, that familiar sense of pain started to knock on my chest. I knew this feeling too well. I think all the emotions and thoughts that I controlled felt the released grip when I gratefully got on the plane and decided it was time to get out.

The magnificent thing is that I now had unknown gifts of yoga  under my belt. Somewhere along my yoga journey, my conscious breathing, meditation practice, and learning about the body's inner workings made it possible for me to stop what I used to crumble on the ground to.

Upon feeling the heart pain and realizing what was around the corner, I chose to face the fear...not let it take over. I became the observer of the sense of pain in the heart. I breathed in deeply and slowly and focused on inhaling calmness into my lungs. As I felt the sensations as a detached observer instead of a helpless victim, the sensations faded away. It was fascinating to discover the power yoga gave my mind to stop what used to stop me.

The cumulative benefits of yoga are individual and endless. It is normal to practice and sometimes wonder if it really made a difference. Sometimes we, including myself, are not as consistent in our physical practice as we could be. Sometimes practices or meditations are short; however, don't guilt yourself. Everything you do has cumulative effects and finds residence within you. Just keep practicing....what you need will come.

Your new inner resident may not be as obvious as the ones that reside on the exterior. But, know this, when you need a little help, your quiet "neighbor" will be there. All you have to do is breathe, open the door, and let the source of yoga "magic" help you help yourself.

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