By: Sarah Shiplett, E-RYT 200
It was this same time last year
I was a yoga teacher who had forgotten how to breathe.
After the Santa Fe High School shooting last year, I started having anxiety attacks. Tension, tightness and tears over an idea I couldn’t rationalize in my mind— that I brought children into a world filled with such hate, evil and literal rage. We fill our yoga classes with philosophy, ethical
disciplines, inspiring tidbits, literally pumping love back into the universe with every word we speak. I hated that there were people out there countering all that love.
I lived in fear of walking with such evil.
Most of the time as teachers we are
n’t seen as regular humans. During my first yoga gig, my boss told me to always make sure I put on a happy face when checking students in and have that aura carry on until the class was over and students had left our space. It’s a business and the aura we put out is extremely important. We are seen as mostly content, sometimes joyful, always peaceful, Earth-loving people making new friends and offering pillars of support and strength for our students. If we came to class crying, eyes puffy and lips quivering unable to speak through the panic, we wouldn’t have any students left to teach!
The big question is…. who is holding sp
ace for us especially when we lose sight and grasp of our own teachings?
Last May, all the yoga tools and life skills I had in my tool belt abandoned me and I was left blubbering and puttering around our home, wondering the fate of myself and my two darling children. For they hadn’t started their journeys in school yet, and I started doing the only thing I knew how.
I cried hard.
I called my mom.
I went to yoga.
When anxiety attacks hit you, you are crippled. It’s painful. It’s sometimes panic. It’s fight or flight. As I write this, I can actually feel the space in my chest where my breath starts and ends. Hello sympathetic nervous system and heart palpitations. Goodbye everything you’ve studied and practiced for nearly a decade.
Deep breathing has been my saving grace; however, it will never be perfect. It is a constant work in progress. If I really n
eed assistance and I don’t have the time to get to a nearby studio or an online class, there’s an app called iBreathe which has been life changing. By slowing down your breath, using diaphragmatic breathing, we stimulate and strengthen our vagus nerve. I once heard this nerve referred to as our “happy, wandering nerve.” For me, I truly believe over the past year the breath practice alone has been key in stress response, resilience and a decrease in anxiety attacks.
I also like being barefoot outside. This is so random, I know, but I have found the more physical sensations I can provide my body with, the more grounded I feel. I later learned this is science based and having your feet in grass, sand or in the Earth helps regulate our autonomic nervous system. Essentially, we are resetting and regulating the natural circadian rhythms (sleep/wake cycles) of our bodies.
As a yoga teacher and or yoga practitioner, have you ever lost your way, whether it be anxiety, anger, resentment, the inability to let go?
Name a time when you had to redirect and maybe even relearn your practice. What did you learn from it?