By: Sonia O’Brien

I am an anxious person. It’s a fact I have had to accept and learn to work around anxiety and it hasn’t always been easy. I fought this particular trait with all of my might. I started and stopped numerous self-help programs and read so many books on the subject that I became overwhelmed with all of the suggestions on how to “cope” with the condition. But, I was desperate to feel better, so I tried most of them. At least the ones I thought I had any chance of sticking with, but none of them really felt right to me and I would stop after a few days, or even a few hours, if it seemed too hard. I just couldn’t commit to any of it long term. Then, quite by accident, I discovered yoga.

I was getting a little older and I had decided it was time to take better care of my physical health, so I joined the local YMCA. I didn’t pick that gym for any particular reason, it just happened to be close by and it looked nice, so I signed up. One day, after working out on the treadmill, I walked by the front desk on my way out and saw a display of class schedules for the different locations around town. One of the locations was very close to my current gym and it advertised mind/body classes such as meditation and yoga. At the time, yoga was gaining popularity in the United States, but it was still something a lot of people were using to get in better shape physically. Everyone talked about toned abs and more flexibility, but I never heard much in the way of the mental benefits of the practice. But, being in the mood to try something new, I went to my first class, without much in the way of expectations, and promptly fell in love.

Even in that first class, as I fumbled my way through sun salutations and down dogs, I knew I had found something special. With continued practice, I have learned how to listen to my breath and my body. I can better identify anxiety triggers and work around them. Thanks to yoga, I am calmer, more relaxed, and better able to deal with the stressors of everyday life. I can’t believe it took me so long to find something I love so much, but I am grateful everyday that I eventually found my way to such a wonderful practice.

And, as any yogi will tell you, your appetite for all things yoga related increases the more you practice, so I have now begun studying Buddhism, meditation, and the Yoga Sutra. I have learned yoga will influence your life, on and off the mat, in ways you never expected. My next step is to obtain my teacher certification so I can share this life-changing gift with others.

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