Day 212 – anxiety and confidence

Teaching yoga, I find that some students really need to hear the cue to relax their shoulders and breathe into the diaphragm or the belly. They take a deep breath in and I watch their shoulders rise, the chest puff out and the whole point of the deep breath becomes null and void as the entire bottom part of the lungs remains unused. When the shoulders are tightly wrapping around the neck, we call these the waiting muscles. This is where anxiety most commonly presents itself in the body. The student I am speaking to is aware of this but admits that he needs to practice this, that he always forgets and falls back into his old habits. I tell him he can change his habits and I can see the doubt in his eyes. Only one minute a day, focus on your breath and slow it down and breathe into the belly. One minute is not a long time at all. His excuses start to fall away and as we talk, I see the breath move down. Once he is more relaxed, the tension falls out of his shoulders and he seems calm. Sometimes new students come to yoga and feel that they aren’t quite getting it, or that they aren’t doing it ‘right’. They can stress out at the time when they are supposed to be relaxing the most. I tell them not to worry too much about the alignment, it will come. I remember being there; looking around the room, trying to follow the other students and understand what the hell the teacher was on about as she spoke jibberishasana. And then one day, it was like something clicked and when I heard “Bakasana”, I found myself immediately in an arm balance. The important part is not how much you know, how high the legs go, how close you can touch the nose to the knee. The important part is how it makes you feel! It was the confidence that set me soaring into that arm balance. Despite this student’s compulsive tension and chest breathing, he tells me the class was perfect and just what he needed and he leaves with a smile on his face.

When I get home, one of my best friend’s, Luca, is already there, chatting away to Krystle as she prepares dinner. Luca is a tall, vivacious, highly intelligent Italian who I met at yoga teacher training and made the impressive comment in a room full of yogis, “Sometimes yoga is not doing yoga”. He has cut off his mop of Side-Show Bob curls and is walking like the Tin Man after running for the first time in weeks. His job keeps him in Papua New Guinea most of the year so it has been months since I last heard his infectious laugh. We are talking about work and attitude and he says that the secret to his success is confidence. “Liz, you must demand everything that you want because nobody will offer it to you. When they offered me my contract, I asked for everything to be improved upon. When I asked for more money and they said ‘No’, I knew I was pushing it but to everything else they had already said yes so it was worth a try! I know my value and I know I deserve what I ask for. I work hard.” I wonder if he walked in there doing chest breaths? I can pretty much guarantee that he did not.

I don’t know if many people in this world can say that they know their value. I think there are many people who estimate their value on their monetary gain but there is so much more to a single being than a salary. Luca is the kind of beautiful yogi who can scratch the back of his head with his toenail and then walk into a room and manage a team of eleven people in a subtropical developing country where he can’t walk in the streets due to the dangerous political climate. He is only 28 and already talking about buying property.

Going to bed, I look over my day and think about the anxiety that sometimes grips us all. Everybody, even the most conscious yogi, does a chest breath every now and again. Relax, take a deep BELLY breath, know your value and demand what you deserve from the world. Because nobody else can breathe for you. Nobody else knows your value and nobody but you will hand it to you.

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