Updated: Dec 8, 2020
If this year has taught us anything, it’s that we need to slow down. You’ve probably heard this so many times since the pandemic hit, but has anything really changed for you? Have you managed to slow down and if so, what happened when you did?
For me personally, the pandemic pushed me out of my comfort zone, and forced me into taking my yoga teaching online, and I am so grateful for that. It has helped me to connect with a lot more people than I would have if I were in a physical yoga class and has also helped me to realize the direction that I want to take my yoga teaching. It has allowed me to be of service to my community.
So in light of this I thought that it was fitting that this months blog could provide some insight into how yoga, and other practices can help you to slow down and deal with stress.
Stress affects the body in so many ways resulting in ailments such as high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity and diabetes, just to name a few. I have had first hand experience in this department, so here’s a little story for you:
Back in 2014 I was working as a merchandiser, importing products into South Africa and would travel to China twice a year for the trade fairs to meet with suppliers and source new samples. Sounds so glamorous and exciting right!! Not really … my days were about 10 – 12 hours long, I would take my laptop home most evenings and on weekends. When we arrived in China, we would drop our bags at the hotel, after traveling for about 14 – 16 hours and head straight to the fair, no break, no shower, no food…just work.
At the fair we would spend 12 hours a day on our feet walking the fair flat, ensuring that we saw every single supplier on our list, like it was the most important task in the world, only to get back to the hotel in the evening and, yes you guessed it, work some more. I don’t know how I made the time for the bit of shopping that I did there. I constantly felt like I was running faster than my legs would take me, and the company’s management wasn’t very friendly either. They had high expectations of their employees with minimal compensation; I was yelled at least once every 2 weeks and constantly told that I was not doing enough. Needless to say that I am not a lazy person when it comes to my work, everyone who knows me will attest to this.
Anyway…at the time, I was in the mindset that being busy and overworked was a badge that I could wear with honor and be proud of, so I continued to push myself. In December of that year in South Africa, we had thrown a Christmas party for some of our clients, it was a lovely gathering and we all had a great time. The next day we all traveled back to the airport together and the plan was to head straight back to the office when we landed…what a surprise. My body had other plans though. I was in the car with some colleagues and noticed that I was struggling to breathe, which was strange for me as I had never struggled before, one of my colleagues suggested that I sit next to the window, so I did and opened the window as I stuck my head out, trying to bring in as much oxygen as possible.
By the time we got to the airport I was gasping for air, I couldn’t see anything (I think my eyes might have been rolling in the back of my head), I couldn’t lift my limbs at all…my body went into complete shutdown. I think that it must’ve been about 3 or 4 of my colleagues that literally dragged me through the airport to the medic. I only remember seeing flashes of the airport and then being seated on a chair and a nurse trying to give me pills…me being as stubborn as I am tried to deny the pills even though at this point I had been consistently gasping for air for maybe 15 – 20 minutes, heart racing, feeling like this was it for me. The nurse threaten to not allow me to fly home unless I took the pills so I eventually did, they sedated me, and I must’ve woken up about 3 or 4 hours later. I woke up to my manager seated with me, looking very concerned. She had contacted my family and we had managed to get another flight home.
I spent a week in the hospital on a drip, undergoing a number of blood tests, as well as ECGs and an MRI. At this point, the company I worked for was still calling me asking me when I was coming back to work with no regard for my health, I even had my laptop with me at the hospital, I still hadn’t learned my lesson.
The doctors couldn’t find anything physically wrong with me, but the attack was extremely real, I had never experienced anything like this in my life and I thought that my time had come that day. The results… a severe panic attack. I was shocked! I n my mind this was so much more severe than what I had imagined a panic attack to be.
Needless to say, at this point, I resigned from that company and took a giant step down in my career to look after my own wellbeing, and I can confidently say that this was the best thing that I could have done for myself. I focused more on practicing yoga, mindful breathwork and meditation.
Since then I have had about 5 more panic attacks, nothing close to the gravity of the first one though. The last one was in January 2018 and I am happy to say that I have not experienced one since. Even typing this story up again, bringing all of those memories back and remembering the fear that I felt that day and every time thereafter when I felt another one coming, brought tears to my eyes, I can’t believe that I allowed myself to get to that point…and I know that I am not the only one.
But enough about me, I wanted to share this story to let you know that if this resonated with you on any level, first of all, I am sorry to hear that you are in this position right now, but there are some simple tools that you can use to help you deal with stress, avoid these types of attacks or anxieties and live a healthier, more meaningful life that does not revolve around work.
The first one is yoga, and that doesn’t mean that you should only practice slow and steady yoga, my personal favorite, this depends entirely on you and your personality and what it is that you need at the time.
If you find that your mind races a lot and you want to quiet your thoughts, perhaps try out Vinyasa yoga, where you match breath to movement and you get to make the practice your own through deliberate movement and focus. You’ll be concentrating so hard on what you are doing with your body that your mind won’t have the time to overthink.
If you feel that you need your body, mind and spirit to connect, or to ground your energy, perhaps try a slower paced style of yoga like Yin Yoga. In Yin Yoga you stay in each posture for a lengthened period of time in order to allow access to the connective tissue and joints. It could almost be described as a meditative practice as you are in stillness for long periods of time and become the witness to sensations in the body and fluctuations of the mind.
I suggest trying a few different styles of yoga and finding the one that you connect with the most. Here is a short yoga session from my Yoga in 10 series to help you slow down.
The other tool is meditation, when I started to meditate I simply did some guided meditations to help me sleep at night, or to help me reset in the middle of the day if I was feeling overwhelmed or anxious. Here is a link to a Slow Down meditation on Elumi TV. You can choose how you want to meditate. You could use meditations like you would any other medication take as and when needed, or if you want to build this into your lifestyle, meditate daily, it only takes 21 days to form a habit. Your body and mind will thank you for it.