Hot Yoga: A Lesson in Anxiety

Today I overcame my fear of suffocating heat.  I went to hot yoga.  It was 105 degrees and I had to be talked into it, by three people.  Before I left my house, I almost bailed.  I was having real anxiety about not being able to breathe in a hot, crowded room.

One of my first real anxiety attacks occurred in a small, hot space.  I was on a mini-bus in Madrid.  Poor planning left the interior of the bus heated to over 100 degrees when we boarded.  Silly girl that I was, I sat in the last row, where the air strained to reach me.  It was my first real taste of claustrophobia.  I thought I was going to pass out.  I almost asked the bus driver to pull over so that I could get off.  I survived by closing my eyes and breathing.

Anxiety is a funny thing.  I remember going to the doctor in my late teens and describing some of my phantom symptoms:  random dizziness, upset stomach, shortness of breath.  The doctor asked if I had anxiety.  I said no.  I really did not think that I did.  By the time I reached 25, I figured it out.  I had anxiety, he was right all along, I just could not believe that something in my head could have so much control over my body.  I refused to medicate.  I was determined to overcome it by myself.

Flash forward a few years and most of the time I do overcome it.  I read a lot of books and realized that I need to face my fears.  This may seem simple, but real anxiety can be debilitating.  There were days that it was easier to hide from everything, to avoid life.  I had a week-long anxiety attack when I quit my job and started my teaching program, but I just kept trucking.  If I ever get a tattoo, it will say “Be brave.”

So, yesterday, when I felt anxiety’s nasty little symptoms creeping in, I knew what I was dealing with.  That’s half the battle, knowing your enemy.  The other half is facing it.  No matter how much my stomach hurt or I could not sleep thinking about it, I had to go to hot yoga.  And, yes, there were moments when I felt like I was going to pass out, when I sat on the floor and closed my eyes and breathed while everyone else kept moving.  But, I also caught myself smiling as I fought through it.  Anxiety wins if it stops me from doing something new, I win when I do it anyway.  Today, I’m happy to report I kicked anxiety’s ass.

I survived hot yoga, drenched in sweat, but smiling.

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5 thoughts on “Hot Yoga: A Lesson in Anxiety

  1. I’m proud of you! I, for one, could never do hot yoga. But! Here’s to many more adventures doing things that scare us and push that anxiety envelope. You inspire me!

    • oliviaobryon says:

      Thanks Regina! It wasn’t as bad as I expected– I definitely think you could handle it! (You rock at exercise challenges!) And, I’m glad we inspire each other to be brave 🙂 Road trip yeah!

  2. Chloe Saul says:

    I have anxiety as well and find that facing my triggers helps immensely. If I can instigate the situations that make me most anxious, then I have control over them and I can lessen my reactions in the future. Good for you going even though it wasn’t comfortable!

  3. sarapolton says:

    fantastic post. Bikram for me is like taking a big anti anxiety pill. It chills me out when I’m tense.

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