Cathy Weiss

Yoga | Author | Spiritual Teacher

Private and small group yoga instruction for women. Professional, reliable, authentic.

I am grateful for anxiety...

If you had told me a year ago that I would even consider begin grateful for anxiety I would never have believed it. I do believe in being grateful for difficult and challenging moments, but often I express gratitude for those moments with my head rather than feel it deeply in my heart. I'm human and I think this is a step in the right direction and that where my mind goes my body will follow. So if I'm thinking gratitude eventually I will feel it also. About 14 months ago I began having anxiety and panic attacks. This was a new and scary experience for me. Panic attacks are most unpleasant, you are sure in that moment that you might die and it feels scary and alone. It took me a bit to even admit to myself that this was happening, like somehow it made me less me, less strong or something and I was embarrassed because there is was no predicting when a panic attack would come so I felt a little out of control of that aspect.

Once I could say, yes, I'm having serious anxiety and occasional panic attacks I knew it was time to be proactive. I also feel our society jumps at medication too quickly and so chose not to share with others at first what was happening because I didn't want anyone telling me just go get such and such prescription and it will all be fine.

Instead I turned to yoga and meditation. One of the things I love most about yoga is that is has many different "flavors" and one of its amazing properties is healing. BKS Iyengar, one of the fathers of modern yoga practice used yoga to heal his own illnesses. I have a wonderful book by him that has a huge section of asana (yoga pose) sequences designed to help with all kinds of ailments and difficulties. So in January of 2010 I began practicing the sequence for anxiety at least once a week, sometimes twice and any time I felt anxiety or panic coming I would immediately go to that sequence. I also got a book on meditation techniques for anxiety and began practicing those several days a week.

The thing about yoga and meditation for ailments is that it works so well to me it is magical. I often say yoga is the magic cure for everything! But, it takes time for them to work their magic. Sure, I could have taken medication and seen instant results, but had no tools for dealing with the situation when it arose. I chose to be patient and allow the time for the yoga and meditation to work. Over the course of many months I began to understand where the anxiety and panic came from, I began to notice when they were arising, and I had tools to lessen their impact. By November of 2010 I had stopped doing the asana sequence with such regularity but still do it from time to time to manage any symptoms. I have also not had a true panic attack in several months.

But here's why I am so grateful I experienced that time and what I learned from it and how I managed it. I'm giving private yoga lessons once a week to my dear friend and student Jill who is currently kicking cancer's butt with her second surgery and chemo treatments. Each time she undergoes chemo, the side effects come faster and stronger in a cumulative sort of way. So before her most current treatment she was experiencing anxiety knowing what was coming up for her.

When she told me how she was feeling I thought to myself, "I know exactly what she's feeling. I've felt and experienced that too. I know exactly what yoga poses to do to make her feel calmer and more secure!" So this past Wednesday I led her through the exact sequence that I had been practicing for much of the past year.

Toward the end of the session I could feel her body settle and knew she was feeling calmer and more secure. In that moment I said to myself in my mind, "I am so blessed to have dealt with anxiety because I could use my experience to help make Jill feel better." It was such a Divine moment for me, to know that my challenges served a purpose more meaningful than just in my little life.

Here's what I know about being grateful for any challenge. First, get yourself through it. Learn about it, give yourself tools and resources, reach out to others for help when you need it. Then, once you have passed through that time allow it to be of service to someone else going through a similar time. That is the gift and blessing of difficulty, it's what makes a hard time so positively powerful for both you and others.

We are all in this life together. We are not alone. I am grateful in my heart for that.