CoffeeAndYoga

Struggling With Flexibility Vs Anxiety

8 posts in this topic

Hello everyone!

I have been practicing yoga on and off for a little over a year. In December 2014 I finally started picking it back up frequently. It's difficult to follow a good routine, and practice everyday, being a full time student and working long hours at a hospital. I have been noticing so many changes since I first started practicing, and I am in love with yoga! I have watchedd so many different yoga videos and, finally, really being able to enjoy it more since I started watching and practicing with Candace. Okay, so to the topic. Now that I have been progressing, I'm beginning to notice that it is getting harder to: become more flexible, I feel like I'm not going any where; and to stay in poses, to increase flexibility, strength, and/or lengthening, because of overwhelming anxiety. I've been able to push it away for the most part; however, now I'm feeling that it's getting more and more difficult the more I practice yoga. I don't have any friends to currently practice with, nor do I have a yoga class I can attend. Any advice/suggestions/helpful hints, are highly appreciated.

And of course, if any one else is struggling, feel free to join in on the conversation!

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I definitely went through something just like what you're describing.  I had been practicing for close to a year, 2-3x a week, and I felt like I was done.  I love yoga, and felt as though I had finally found the kind of workout my body and mind needed, but then I started feeling hopeless.  I could watch an instructor get into a pose but there was just NO WAY that was happening for me.  At all.  And I felt like it never would.  Headstand?  What a joke.  I felt as though I had no endurance.  I found myself attempting poses/longer videos and getting so angry that I couldn't keep up or do the full expression.  I always thought that I had pretty decent flexibility, and while I knew that my upper body and core strength were not great, I didn't think they were half bad.  Well, I was wrong lol.  I think I hit a place where I realized that just how limited I was and that hit me REALLY hard emotionally.  I felt like I had been doing all of this work and it had been for nothing.  You know what though?  It was for something.  I read one of Candace's posts about thinking positively about yourself.  Saying "I can" instead of ANYTHING else.  Every time I practiced, I stopped shooting for the full expression of a pose and rather attempted to do my best.  I made a very real effort to stop feeling envy when watching an instructor do something so effortlessly.  Instead, I told myself, "I CAN do that.  I just need to work really hard."  I made a very conscious choice to go into a practice and listen to what my body was saying.  I learned that I could push my body a bit more in some poses and in others that just wasn't going to happen.  And you know, I learned to be content with that.  I learned to accept my body as it is, beautifully flawed and always improving as long as I try.  I've learned to set aside any and all expectations when it comes to yoga and to just go with the flow.  I don't always succeed, but I try really hard to stay positive and open to myself.  I hope this helps you in some way (and that it made sense!).  Don't give up on yourself.  I'm rooting for you!

 

P.S. Try Candace's strength challenge.  I had never practiced that much in my year-long journey at that point, but I made every effort to stick with it.  It kicked my behind, but I've never seen so much progress so quickly in my life.  I went from holding chaturanga for half of a breath to holding it for more than 5 breaths.  It was also the first time I ever successfully got up into headstand.  If I can make that much progress in a month, you can too!

mimisouth, PaulaH, Robbie and 3 others like this

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The post KatieD is referring to is this one. Is the anxiety stemming from the anger/frustration of not feeling like they're getting anywhere? Or is the yoga sort of uncovering this underlying current of anxiety you've always had? Either way, I think it's really important to try to get out of your own head. For example, if I let my anxieties/fears/frustrations start talking, it's all over. It can actually ruin my entire day if I give those little voices a microphone. Remember that there is no real end goal. Truly. Even the most beautiful handstand or split or whatever will still have somewhere to go. What I mean by that is even if someone can get into the most gorgeous, full split, that's not the end. There are still a billion variations that person could go and work on. And I don't say that to make you feel as if you'll never "get there" - but rather to say that no matter where you end up in your pose, there's always somewhere else to go and it's really about the journey, the work, the sweat and tears and all that it takes to overcome your self doubts and expectations and the constant pressure we put on ourselves to be more, do more, etc etc etc. When we quiet those voices and just simply breathe and work in whatever pose we're in, no matter how deep we are in the pose, the yoga starts to work. The breath starts to be the boss. And nothing else matters. 

 

Ok so all that sounds really out there, and doesn't really offer any real advice so here's what I suggest: 

 

-Start with a meditation to just quiet all the thoughts. Visualize a light switch to your thoughts and mentally flick the switch off for the duration of your practice.

-Then, practice.

-Take a picture of a pose you're working on where you feel like you are stuck or aren't seeing progress. 

-Try one of the monthly projects and keep taking a pic of yourself in that pose each week. With consistent practice, you will see progress. And sometimes just seeing that there is progress can reignite a whole need sense of self assuredness and relief. 

 

We're here for ya!  :13:

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I am still working with improving my flexibility and there are days that I feel like I am going backwards because I was sore from a couple of days before (I since invested in a foam roller for my hamstrings and that has helped A LOT with recovering)  Forward fold is one of my poses for this month's challenge and I would only know that I had made progress from taking pics (it wasn't much but it was something).  I too have no friends locally that practice yoga and I am a little scared to step into a class.  I have made a little area in my house to practice my yoga and just follow along with the month's challenge schedule which helps me stay consistent with my practice.  Some days can be challenging, I could have a lot on my mind and might even be stressing about a situation at work without even realizing it.  It has always been a little difficult to let "thoughts go by like a cloud in the sky"...I love that expression BTW...but recently it has been going well and being able to keep a clear head has opened so much more.  So this month I am working on dancer's pose and forward fold, there has been progress because it seems like lately I have been having daily victories in my practice that I wasn't not even working towards because I didn't think I was there yet.  Like jumping/floating to the front of the mat from downward dog instead of stepping forward I was never able to control that and then just one day I did and I was so excited and whenever that part comes up in the practice I just smile to myself that I can do that now. 

 

Ok I think that was enough rambling and I hope that all made sense.  I hope this was helpful :D

CoffeeAndYoga and mimisouth like this

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Is the anxiety coming from fear of pulling a muscle and going too far?  Or from falling over?  If it's something more physical, do you think there's a variation using the wall that can help you get deeper in the pose to help with your flexibility?  Blocks might also serve this purpose.

 

A recent fear barrier of mine was broken by a very strong adjustment by a teacher I've been practicing with for a few years now.  If fear is holding you back from going deeper, perhaps it can be broken like mine was, by doing it safely with a teacher assist or using a wall for balance. Please, though, do not push too far if the pose gets intense without an instructor who knows you well, or it can easily go into pain.

 

One of my classes is a mixture of hatha and ashtanga primary series.  I kept doing Prasarita Padottanasana B, just minding my own business (and thinking to myself I was not progressing much, but I was OK with that).  I also felt like my head was very far away from the ground. Then my teacher came up behind me, pulled my glutes up and pushed my hips forward enough that I was able to fold more deeply so my head went further down.  She had to instruct me to open my eyes because I instinctively closed them in fear, without even realizing it.  My hamstrings were pushed to the limit, and I honestly thought I was going to fall and hit my head. But my teacher had a firm hold on me and let me feel how it was to be more upright and fold more deeply.  I didn't even realize I was holding fear in that pose, until my teacher helped me both overcome the fear of falling too far forward and also pushing further into a deeper stretch.

 

The end of the story? After a few more times of those same strong assists, I can now touch the top of my head to the ground now in all the variations.  The progress was very gradual (a few months of the assists) but I'm satisfied because I wasn't focusing on that pose, and it developed on its own as a natural outcome of practicing. I also need to my teacher's assists - that is one unfortunately downside of doing a home practice.

 

For others who regularly practice yin yoga, can that help with muscle flexibility? I understand yin works on releasing tension in the ligaments rather than work on the muscles. But I was wondering if that could be a good alternative to do for a home practice because there is so much intensity felt while holding the poses for 3-5 minutes.

CoffeeAndYoga likes this

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I apologize for replying so late - life sure does like getting in the way! ;) I highly appreciate everyones two cents on this subject. Yes, the anxiety was due to flexibility but also psychologically. I have since been to the doctor and he has prescribed me a daily medication to help with it. Anyhow, things have certainly gotten better for me, anxiety wise. Unfortunately, my yoga space is no longer my own. It has been difficulty keeping up with my yoga practice this past month but I am determined to get back to it! I will be starting on one of Candaces' many lovely series. I will also be doing what I can to keep up with the forum! It's so full of information! =) Again, thank you everyone for responding!

starslight and YogaByCandace like this

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This may not be beneficial for you but to get out of my own head I do a routine I'm not familiar with. It forces me to focus on my body instead of my thoughts drifting. If doing something repeatedly you're body is used to your brain doesn't have to think about it due to muscle memory. A service like Yogaglo.com might be beneficial with a hectic schedule. This may be completely off from the answers you're seeking and if so, sorry.

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