What anxiety looked like.

What originally drew you to yoga? I liken yoga to those beacons of light that shoot up into the sky...usually from a car dealership or maybe a carnival...something like that. Do you know what I’m talking about? At night, you can’t help but see those bright beams climbing high into infinity and wonder about their origin, what’s going on over there.

When I think of how I got my start, I see yoga as that light beckoning me to come visit, come see, come explore. I started a regular practice during a time in my life when I was suffering from pretty severe anxiety. I lived in Washington, DC and could barely get on the metro without panicking about whether or not I’d ever get off of it, or what the day had in store. My anxiety crept in pretty unexpectedly. Sure, I’d been a worrier and a perfectionist before, but never this severe. It came in the form of panic attacks, crippling stomach pain, sleepless nights, irritability. Life wasn’t supposed to be this way, right? On paper, everything looked lovely - job, great graduate program, loving relationship. So, what the heck was going on?

Okay, so back to yoga. I’m not sure what made me stumble into a lunchtime class at GW's gym (my workplace and school at the time), a flimsy mat in hand. I’m not even sure exactly how that particular class went, but I knew I liked it way more than I thought I would. And, I knew I felt a peace like I never felt before in those 50 minutes. So, I kept going. Two, three times a week I would walk over at lunchtime to take class. And, so a practice was born.

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But, you know what? My anxiety didn’t go away. Yoga didn’t make it go away. Instead, yoga taught me to ask the right questions. Its teachings encouraged me to look deep within to find the source of the struggle. And, that? That was discontent. But, even further, instead of being affected by my discontent, yoga helped me to ask, What are you learning from this discontent, this struggle?

BAM. You guys, that realization did not happen overnight. It took years of practice for me to realize, Oh, wait a second...I need to address discontent instead of just deal with it. I need to go straight to the source of my frustrations and fears and unmet wishes and figure this out. And, there is where I discovered that the path I was on wasn’t my own.

I won’t get into my story further. One day I’ll share more. But, know this - The body is always talking, always telling us something. And, discontent, uneasiness, anxiety can show up in very physical ways. But, that’s okay. What can discontent teach you? What can you learn about yourself through examining the source of discomfort, and trying to breathe steadiness and ease into those places? How can you adapt, change, grow? That’s where the true spiritual journey begins.

Take a moment today to reflect on your body’s physical state and the thoughts in your mind. Is discontent showing its colors in any way? Welcome them. Over time, if you allow it, your discontent can teach you a great deal.

-Leanne Matullo