Sunday, January 17, 2010

Accepting My Hyperventilating, Panic Attack, Yogic Self

I have always envied those that could chose one theoretical construct versus another. It was a hallmark of studying in Psychology (and Speech Pathology), each prof and their selected students had a different set of underlying explanations for their world view- behavioural, cognitive, neurospsychological, social-psych... At the time I was very much a: "well of course it's not that simple, it's a combination of all".

I still view the world this way- Autism isn't simply a neurological disorder, it's a combination of genetic vulnerability, environmental factors (i.e. pollutants, family dynamics, mother's health-age during pregnancy) and neurological infarcts (i.e. anoxic birth, difficult delivery, prematurity, drug exposure etc etc). The research is slowly catching up to what academics have been suspecting for decades... but then how can you conduct valid research studies with SO many variables? Hence the confusion, researchers pick one because that's what our scientific model recommends, and we get one narrow slice of the child-individual's world.

I find yoga to be this way sometimes. Depending on your "style" of choice, you can focus here as if the answer lies ONLY in Iyengar-Ashtanga-Bikram-Vinyasa-Baptiste's method. The idea of a "pure yogi" or "what is yoga" can permeate and (for myself) cloud what is important until all we discuss are things like how *old* is yoga. Why waste the energy? After such heated discussions, I leave feeling empty, drained and frustrated. I've been careful recently where I go and what I read (and there are many blogs whom I visit and will continue to leave comments because they are wonderful :) ).

Similar stuff has been happening with the Wedding community. So many people feel so impassioned about what their worldview should encompass, that any sense of understanding or respect is lost in words. Pair that with the PRESSURE of traditional society on what it means to be a "bride" and "woman" and you've got a nice group of blogs and commenters that just sap the normalcy out of the experience. (of course there are a few that are wonderful, if there are any readers here that are bride-groom's to be- I highly recommend this, this and this blog!).

After a frustrating commenting weekend, I've decided to stop. No more heated discussions, or commenting my (valid) opinions. There is always someone who will disagree. And really- why go through all that? Obviously, the sensitive soul that I am isn't going to harden up and "not care" what other people think. And I don't see why this is something I should strive to accomplish. I like who I am as a person.

Who I am includes my sensitivity. If I love myself, than I love and accept parts of myself that may bring me pain. If I respect myself, I can avoid certain (unnecessary) situations- such as reading silly wedding posts about something ridiculous another blog has done (did you KNOW there were fake wedding photoshoots on design blogs touted as "weddings that are styled"?.....).

This also includes heated yoga. Which I attended again today. You see, I don't like *not* liking one style of yoga- it feels very closed and "unyogic". Like, if I just try harder, or "let go", or "suck it up" than I will be open to more styles and learning.

After I finished cleaning the studio today during my second energy exchange I found a few quiet moments. The studio and building was empty and the yoga-cd was playing a song by Deva Premal. One of my favourites, although I have no idea the name of the song. I walked into the empty studio, placed a mat and with the music surrounding and embracing me, I practiced. Slow, steady and with Love. Flowing through the Sun Sals, a few forward bends, halfmoon... none of it felt awkward or stiff. For a half hour I had Space to focus on my practice, connect with myself and Spirit. It felt like Yoga.

An hour later I returned to the studio with a friend to practice a 90 minute Baron Baptiste Power Flow. I sat too close to the heater and mid practice I took child's pose. I hyperventilated and cried, tears streaming down with my face pressed against the mat trying desperately to "get it together". I couldn't breathe, I thought I was going to throw up, and I was SO disappointed in myself. What kind of yogi has a panic attack in a heated class surrounded by 40 others who seem to be just fine?

I finished the practice, and for this I am glad, but I do not assume for a minute that the experience was worth it. I am willing to believe that physical challenges and being humbled can provide positive learning experiences but anything that places that much mental and emotional angst is not a healthy.

So I need to accept and respect my body AND my emotional and psychological Self. Heated yoga, like crowds, have potential to result in a panic attack with my Self. Which does not make me less of a yogi. What I practiced during the Baptiste class was not, during that specific time and emotional-physical place, "yoga". It was a reminder to accept and love this Person that I am.

(the person that successful cleaned the entire studio with water-vinegar-tea tree oil-broom-bucket-rag!)

The half hour, solitary and spiritual practice after I had scrubbed and mopped the studio, in my yoga pants and regular undershirt and bra, THAT was Yoga.


article copyright of EcoYogini at


  1. I love it. I have the same experience with hot yoga. And the same reaction - feeling that it makes me "less" of a yogi. I have been going through some yoga blues lately and have wanted to post, but I can't seem to get the experience onto paper. Anyway, this post reminds me of my current struggle! Maybe I'll be able to describe it this week...

    And way to go on your tea tree scrubbing! Wahoo!

  2. Thanks so much for sharing this tough experience with us. I hope yoga never again makes you cry anything but tears of joy!!

  3. Sorry to hear about your frustrating commenting weekend--and for contributing to it with my hostile responses to your comments. I was drunk.

    As for the age of yoga, I'm interested in it, but mostly because I enjoy learning about history in general. Overall, I don't think either tradition or innovation are inherently good or bad. If ya look in the ancient texts of the world, you'll find some great stuff, and some really nasty crap (particularly when it comes to gender relations, as well as slavery, treatment of children, and smiting infidels and heretics). And, of course, the same thing happens if you look at the most recent blog posts: for every lovely blog like Eco Yogini, there's one written by a neo-nazi or something. And, ultimately, while there have been some, in my opinion, awful modern innovations in the yoga world, like competitive yoga and that wrestler guy in that movie who said his form of yoga was about T&A rather than namaste, at the opposite extreme there's fundamentalist Hinduism and yoga as a practice limited to men. I'm really glad I don't have to choose between those extremes, and can try to find a balance between modernity and tradition in yoga as in other aspects of my life.

    For a long time, I felt it was really important to stick with one style of yoga, and to have one yoga teacher, or, at least, one primary yoga teacher, while sometimes working with others whose styles were very close. Lately, though, I've been paying a monthly fee for an unlimited pass (which, actually, has meant that I'm paying considerably less to take a lot more classes than I did before) at a yoga studio with a whole bunch of really good teachers, mostly vinyasa, but also kundalini and a couple other kinds of yoga. And I've found that what I get the most out of is working with a variety of different teachers with a variety of different styles--not in a willy-nilly, random kinda way, but really thinking about what complements what and makes a good balance--mixing relatively mellow classes with more intense ones, as well as the occasional intense trial-by-fire really hardcore kinda class, and ones where a lot of attention is paid to correct alignment with those where I can just groove along without worrying so much about doing things correctly, as well as trying to do one kundalini class a week, which allows me to put the focus a lot more inward. At the same time, I think certain kinds of yoga probably aren't for me--including hot yoga. Ultimately, it's all about seeing what works for ya, I think.

    Jeezus, but I've gotten long winded...must be 'cause I have work I don't feel like doing, so, I'll end it here.

    Oh, I didn't really make any hostile responses to your comments...of course...though I thought about going and leaving one saying "made ya look!"...

    Okay, I'm gonna do something productive, now...

  4. I definitely don't think that disliking a certain form of yoga is "unyogic". Not at all! In fact, I am kinda against labelling things yogic or unyogic, mostly because I see it as a way that people can judge themselves or others. And what's the point in that, really?

    Not only that, but why not apply this to another example. Say you're allergic to certain foods, or something makes you feel sick every time you eat it. Does it make sense to continue to try and eat it anyway, because you don't want to discriminate against different types of food? Of course, that makes no sense at all.

    Just because heated yoga is not for you, doesn't mean that it's not for others. You are well within your rights to say that you don't like heated yoga. Personally I don't like it either, and I'd always recommend other forms of yoga to others. But if someone wants to try it, I'm not going to stop them! Even if I could.

    We should always honour and respect what works for us and what doesn't. In fact, knowing your limits is very much a part of yogic philosophy. Not that we should always remain within our limits, just that we should accept that we have them. We can push them where it is appropriate or useful.

    And so I'm not saying that because you don't like hot yoga now, you should think that it will always be like that. But certainly you can say that for now, hot yoga doesn't work for you. Perhaps in 2, 5 or 10 years time (etc) you might try it again and find you really dig it. After all, changes in our body chemistry influences what works for us at any given time.

    But for now, do not force yourself. Be kind to your body and do the yoga that nourishes you. That is more important than liking every type of yoga!

    Take care :)

  5. Maybe it's the weather -- but I too have been suffering a little from the yogi blues. Feeling frustrated by my physical limitations, and annoyed by the seeming yogic perfection of all around me.

    What you said really struck a chord with me. And it's a lesson that I'm sure we'll have to deal with again in the future. I'm willing to stick it out. Especially since I know I have good company on the path.

  6. thank you for this post.

    It is true we often feel compelled to be things other than we are and yoga is no exception. This is partly why I practice at home on my own!

    Thank you for the wedding blogs - I knew there would be some out there which were sensible, so thatnk you very much.


  7. I'm so sorry you felt like that during your practice. Sometimes I think that the yoga I do in my pajamas whilst half asleep on a Sunday morning is often more "real" (for want of a better word) than class...

    Remember though, as Cyndi Lee says "it's only yoga". It's important yes of course it is. But it shouldn't take over or make you doubt your true self. Sadly I find some classes and some teachers do this.

    I think the same can be said for a wedding. "It's only a wedding". Yes it will be an awesome day, but it's the start of your marriage. And as far as I see it the only people who have any true say in that is you and Eco-Boy :)

    Much love dear girl. Steer clear of internet snark xx

  8. I have been reading your blog for a month or two, and have really been enjoying it. Thanks so much for sharing this experience and your realizations about your physical practice.

    I started reading yoga blogs last fall, right as a heated debate ensued in the online sphere regarding branding/yoga teachers/corporations, etc. I had been very excited to "discover" such an active online yoga community, but both bewildered and fascinated by the harsh judgements I read. I think discernment is important- particularly as we learn what is working/not working for us individually, also as we continue on our path and realize that what works (or doesn't) changes. Maybe tolerance is what happens when we learn that what works for us doesn't work for everyone, and vice versa...

    that's why there's chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry... and even neopolitan :)

    Lovely thoughts from you, again thank you for sharing!!

  9. Hi Eco Yogini! I empathize with your struggle and respect your discernment. I honor your path and enjoy reading your words. This post heartened my heart. Be well.
    With gratitude for your words here and elsewhere,

  10. Hey lady. Sounds like you know exactly what your yoga is. Don't waste time on the styles you don't like. We practice because it makes us feel good!

    All the yoga blog snark makes me question my "yoga", my teaching, heck, even what I WEAR to practice. Sheesh. Don't know why I do that to myself.

    I loved this beautiful, kind, and honest post.

  11. thank you very much everyone for such loving and supportive comments! I debated whether I should publish it, because it was a very personal and a bit embarassing of a story...

    but it's been wonderful reading such support and kindness :)

  12. Could you perhaps add "perfectionist" to the title of this post? ;)

    It seems to me like too many of us - for some reason, especially us ladies - develop this perception that we HAVE to like everything, fit in everywhere, look good in what is in style, etc, in order to "be perfect", i.e. just to be.

    Well, that's rubbish! Acceptance is about loving other people even when they like something other than what you like, not about loving everything.

    It takes all types to make a world - that's why there are so many types of Yoga! Just as you don't have to love every crazy fashion trend that comes out, you don't HAVE to like every type of Yoga.

    The real Yoga - you've got it. Just being you. :P

    PS - have you looked into what Ayurvedic type you are and recommendations for styles of Yoga that suit your type? I found this really helpful and insightful into why I liked some things and not others. :)

  13. I found your blog through Yoga Gypsy's blog and am so glad I did! Beautiful post. You know what your yoga is. Be kind to yourself always, as you were after cleaning the studio. And may that gentle lovingkindness permeate all that you do.

  14. I'm sorry all the snark got you down. As much as I love blog-world, I don't love it when people use anonymity as an excuse to be jerks. There's engaging dialogue and then there's just bad behavior.

    I am also not a big fan of the black-and-white world view. It's safe and easy to believe everything is right or wrong, but it's also very childish. Most things are grey, and if you take some time to consider the shading, you realize that. I wish the aforementioned anon. jerks would do a bit of thinking before posting their immediate reactions.

    Keep on sweeping. Sometimes the "dumb" chores can be the most calming when done with pleasant intention. Cleaning up the yoga studio is a perfect example of that.

    Cheer up, sis, we all love you and your comments out here!

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  16. I'm also Vata with a bit of Pitta around the edges! Dosha sista, yeah. :)

    In general, Vatas are recommended to have a grounding and slightly warming practice, while Pittas are recommended a calming and cooling practice. An intense heated practice is best suited for Kaphas.

    Vatas are prone to anxiety and insecurity (*sigh*) so poses that are grounding and strengthening (most standing poses, especially warriors, as well as seated poses) are particularly empowering!


    PS - I've found that Orange essential oil works real!y well to balance out the Tea-Tree.

  17. Great post...I write about yoga alot too at times or the principles. I often struggle because I DON'T EAT like a yogii or PRACTICE like a yogii, I'm not mindful as I should be...and I'm constantly feeling bad now for eating "too much bread" or something when they all stress 'light' and this and much pressure. I know I have food "issues" aside , but still it's a struggle.

    I'm glad you have realized that there is NO perfect. It's about you and finding your balance. I've wrote about this a few times...

  18. Thanks for being you....that's what makes this a refreshing blog :)
    I love Moksha Yoga Halifax,but I don't expect others each their own,vive la difference!
    Life would be quite boring if you anf I only liked the same things.
    But I know one thing I really like- YOUR BLOG! ;)

  19. PS oh just a reminder cause i knwo you're budget is tight (like mine!)
    free yoga for a week in halifax downtown(above lululemon ) at brand new studio starting this Sat Jan 23

    (I am not affiliated but like to support all local yoga ventures !)


  20. Sometimes drinking more water before a hot class can help with the might just be dehydrated from all the sweating. But be proud of yourself for coming into child's pose when you needed to!

  21. I really want to say what a wonderful view of science, nature and yoga you have. The scientific reductionist model gives me a headache too, metaphorically speaking. Thank you also for sharing your insight on sensitivity, it brought me comfort; as did your tale of the panic attack. Thank you.

  22. It's definitely annoying at times to live in a world trying to push its social norms on us....although sometimes those norms do serve good purpose (ie don't kill, steal, etc). However it is definitely good to be yourself and to remember to follow the direction of what your self is telling you. Your wedding should be the product of your fiance and your desires. Your yoga practice should be what fulfills you and soothes you. So follow that heart gal! (PS Sorry I haven't been around to comment but glad your new job is working out well too AND I LOVE that you're walking so much to work. When I lived in the city the last 2 years prior to here, I walked everywhere....I lost 2-3 sizes, had time to prep and relax from where I was going, I saw more, embraced more, and had to be aware of the weather. It was great!!)

  23. Thank you, so much, for sharing a piece of your soul with us :)

    I too tend towards anxiety and over-thinking things, and often find that I expect way too much of myself. I always want to be expanding my horizons and trying new things, but I think it is important not to be harsh with myself when I am not good at something. Lately I have been evaluating the things in my life that make me feel good and bad, and seeing how I can make changes so that there is more positivity and love <3.

    I have been learning to love and accept myself and what i know in my heart is best for me--without allowing the feelings created by those... learning experiences... to turn into limiting beliefs about myself. Don't feel bad that it's not for you right now, but also don't limit yourself by saying that it never will be.

    On a similar note, I thought I'd share with you this video i found yesterday that teaches you how to use Emotional Freedom Technique for self-acceptance. I tried it, and it really helped. I hope you like it too!

    **blessings** <3

  24. By no means am I a student of Ayurveda, but one of the theories is that your constitutional makeup changes and you require different things at different times to feel "balanced" - sometimes a hot yoga class will work for you and sometimes it will aggravate your temperament.

    It's only been recently that I've come to love hot practice, and my theory is that it's because we've had a colder than normal winter so my "fire" element needs stoked.

    At the same time, I would miss the spontaneity of a vinyasa or hatha practice if I were going to devote myself entirely to a Bikram style. And I love knowing that if I need or want a new experience there are so many variations out there.

    I think every experience you have in yoga is one you can learn from. Sounds like you learned a lot!


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