It's MY practice, I Can Cry If I Want To

by McKenna Czap

There are few things I love more than a cathartic cry in a dark room, with a cold lavender towel draped over my face, shielding me from the day’s stress and expectations.

Like many people, I began practicing yoga in an attempt to control my anxiety.  I have been living with anxiety for as long as I can remember. Medication is a helpful tool for some and is something that I have tried in the past, but ultimately has never worked for me. This leaves me with more of a ‘holistic’ approach doing things like *trying to* regulate my sleep cycle, keeping a gratuity journal, and getting outside, all of which I used to roll my eyes at. For the most part, I’m a pretty crunchy individual. I use aluminum-free deodorant, I don’t eat meat, I avoid things with the words “sulfate” and “paraben” in them, and I even am guilty of reading Goop on a Sunday evening. Typical stereotypical health-nut, and I haven’t even mentioned yoga yet. A few years into sweating on my mat surrounded by incredibly fit people in overpriced spandex, and I can firmly tell you that while I’m still anxious, I do a heck of a better job at managing my anxiety, and I believe that’s thanks to MY practice.

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Before I continue on, I think it’s important to note that anxiety does not discriminate. It knows no boundaries, no prejudice, and is unique to its host. Every anxious person’s triggers are different just like the way people combat their symptoms is different. For me, yoga is one of my most reliable tools. Now don’t get me wrong, with less than two years of experience, I’m still very new to yoga. I don’t participate in inversions and I definitely can’t understand a word of Sanskrit. When I first started practicing, I used to keep one eye opened at all times, watching accomplished yogis gracefully move their bodies in and out of contortions worthy enough for Cirque du Soleil, amazed by the limberness of so many tiny women and equally surprised by my jealousy to want to be just as bendy. I wanted to do what they were doing and the pressure I put on myself to instantly be great made me anxious.

Getting anxious in a yoga class? It can happen.

This is the part where I write about the one transformative, inspirational mantra a yoga teacher gave me, or the one big moment of enlightenment I had in class that solved all of my woes. Lol, as if. Truthfully, it’s never just one thing. Over time, I had learned to be self-aware enough to identify my anxiety so that I could actively do things to get me out of a toxic mental space. I closed my eyes, took a deep breath and released my worries through MY practice. I flowed to a good playlist, relished in the colorful lights that coated the studio, and got lost on my mat for 50 minutes.

On a bad day, I might end in a tearful corpse pose, but everyday, I feel immensely grateful to practice in such a welcoming space with such a welcoming yoga tribe. Midtown Yoga has been more than a place for me to lay my mat. It has been a place for me to lay my worries, my nerves, my fears, my highs, my lows and be supported by friends.