If you’re like most people, using yoga to calm your mind sounds great in theory, but when push comes to shove, the idea of wasting precious time and energy taking deep breaths kind of gives you an aneurysm. I was once one of those people. In college, I competed with people in my yoga class to see who could hold “om” for longer. I cried and refused to go to class for a week if I had an ego damaging practice, and ultimately took a long hiatus because I brought my best friend, who was an ex-ballet dancer, to class and she turned out to be way more flexible than I was.
Like most people, I sought after aerobic exercise, or activities where I could count miles, stairs and blow off some steam. But I’m at a point in my yoga practice where I’m actually generating steam, and not because I do yoga in a hot room, but because I’ve learned how to engage my muscles so intensely. The difference between running and yoga is that when you run, you do blow off your steam, and when you do yoga, you harness it inwards.
For me, getting to this place took years of practice, getting to a point where my anxiety and competitive nature were literally destroying my life, and getting laid off. I had the “good” fortune to be laid off in the summer (no jobs!), during the worst recession in history (no jobs!), with a skill set that’s not-so-saleable in the current economy (too many writers!) That meant that I had to come face-to-face with the fact that no matter how driven I was, the car was out of gas. That obstacle enabled me to deepen my yoga practice and make some major shifts in my life and persona.
That’s some major shifts. But now, it’s September. And I can feel the weight of that two-sided coin, ambition, in my pocket. Why two-sided? Because ambition can lead us toward new adventures, intellectual growth and slots on Oprah! But it can also lead to the two other As: Anxiety and Anger.
Now no one really wants to admit this, but ask yourself: doesn’t your anxiety kind of make you feel like you’re getting somewhere, even when you’re not? For many people, I think anxiety can be a motivator. But sometimes it fails us, or makes us completely f*&^ing miserable. If you’re at that point, even if you hate breathing, your hamstrings or the idea of not working a 70 hour week, yoga can help.
Yoga can teach you to take what would be epic anxiety and focus on the immediate details that you can control. Most of anxiety is the urge to fix things that are abstract and totally our of our realm of jurisdiction. But when we pay attention to the task at hand, and get really really good at fixing the problems that are right in front of us, we get closer to the big goals without even realizing it.
Basically, this 5-year old I know said it in a nutshell:
Kid: Why does my dad always worry about everything?
Me: I guess because he loves you…and because he’s a big worrier.
Kid: It’s not good to be a big worrier.
Kid: When you’re a big worrier, you get hurt. It’s better to be a small worrier.
Kid: When you’re a small worrier, you don’t get hurt. Only when you’re a big worrier do you get hurt.
Although I’m not sure my little friend understood what she was saying, I thought it was brilliant. We can worry, but we just need worry small. I believe that Yoga doesn’t want to destroy your anxiety. Yoga just wants to have a nice open dialogue with your anxiety. And this new section, “The Wired Warrior,” will be devoted to facilitating that dialogue. So what if you love to work hard, stay connected and check your email 40 times an hour? You still learn about how yoga and present moment mindfulness can make you work better.
The Wired Warrior doesn’t want you to disconnect, or stop worrying. It wants you worry more effectively, with less psychosomatic headaches and neck pain. Every few days, I’ll be sharing work-related and real-life-related dilemmas, with an explanation of yoga can prevent you from breaking things and hating people. Feel free to leave questions/comments or tweet @wickedrb.