How Yoga Has Changed My Relationship with Anxiety

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Yoga

My psychiatrist prescribed me Zoloft. My therapist prescribed me yoga. Here’s how the combination of the two changed my life.

It was the spring of 2017, and I was more overwhelmed than ever. College graduation was a few weeks away, and my grandmother was in the hospital. I’d just broken up with my boyfriend of four years, and I had no idea what I wanted to do with this new “adult” life heading my way.

As the weeks went on, the stressors swirled relentlessly in my mind, and soon came the head-to-toe breakouts. Then the panic attacks, the sleepless nights, the blurred vision, the shortness of breath — all of which I told myself would pass once I became less “overwhelmed.” It didn’t. And looking back, I should have seen it coming.

In first grade, I’d lie awake, struggling to breathe as I worried about the environment and “where all the trash goes.” I’d regularly need to be picked up from sleepovers while everyone else nodded off in their sleeping bags, excuse myself during class to catch my breath after answering a question aloud, and even pull at my eyebrows habitually throughout the day, all because of this overwhelming sense of unease. Long before those final weeks of college, I’d suffered from anxiety — I just didn’t know it yet.

Only when the panic attacks became so persistent did I realize that no amount of waiting for it “to pass” would help me. I needed help. (Related: Why Is It So Hard to Make Your First Therapy Appointment?)

Diving Into Therapy:

I found a therapist, and it didn’t take long for her to pinpoint what I had been experiencing as generalized anxiety disorder. From there, she pointed me in the direction of a psychiatrist, who ultimately determined a daily dose of Zoloft, a common anti-anxiety medication, could help.

Along with the meds, I kept up with my therapy appointments, which, to my surprise, began to include a yoga flow and breathwork exercises.

I wasn’t aware initially, but my therapist was also a certified yoga instructor, and she liked to lean on both her psychological and physical training in client sessions. We’d start each appointment with breathwork: a deep breath in through the nose and a long breath out through the mouth, keeping my tongue behind my two front teeth to slow the speed and keep me centered.

Fast forward six years, and I can confidently say that therapy was the first decision that changed my life, Zoloft the second, and yoga the third. I was finally given a vessel to talk through what was happening for me, a pill to restore the balance in my brain, and a movement to bring my thoughts back to the present.

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