I studied yoga in a 200-hour teacher train from March through September 2015. Along with the nine other women in my kula (community), I was asked to come up with my goals and intentions for the course. My main desire was to stop taking medication for my anxiety. When I started taking them, I had always thought that it would be a temporary solution. Medication would help create enough of a grounding to give me a nudge to find more natural methods to replace a temporary chemical solution.
However, the couple of times I attempted to go off the chemicals cold turkey had not gone particularly well. Each time, I had difficulty breathing, pain in my chest, and panic that came rushing in like a full force flood.
I knew from experience that breath work, meditation, and yoga could help me to feel more calm and grounded, so it seemed reasonable to set my aforementioned goal at the start of my teacher training. However, September arrived and I still had not weaned myself from my chemical balancing act. I felt like a failure, and I was frustrated.
I don’t like being dependent on medication, I told my husband. What if there is a nuclear holocaust and I can’t get my prescription filled? What then?
Of course, I imagine that if a nuclear holocaust were to occur, I would be so focused on survival that I might not have time to be anxiety-riddled, but still. I hated having to see a doctor to get my prescription filled every year. I had even had one doctor refuse to take me as a new patient because of my medication. I felt like there was something wrong with me that I could not find a way to create balance on my own.
What if you try going off of your medication gradually? my husband suggested.
I decided to follow his suggestion and began cutting my pills in half. I tried the each reduction for a few weeks to a month before cutting the half of a pill in half once more.
This gradual process met with far more approval from my body’s internal compass, and I realized a couple of weeks ago that the tiny morsels of pills had grown too small to cut in half without turning into powder.
And so here I sit, western medicine no longer courses through my veins. I am able to breath, I feel grounded and calm (except while driving…Prescott drivers make me crazy, but one step at a time, right?). I still feel some panic arise, mainly as I am getting under the covers for sleep, but this may be residual familiarity from a lifetime of worrying about having trouble falling asleep. It takes practice to create new behavior patterns around the ones that have become engrained over time.
I hadn’t really thought too much about this new place of spaciousness until I mentioned it to a few of my yogi friends while we were out practicing in a local downtown park.
They reflected back to me love, amazement, and support, and I realized that it really was a big deal. Sometimes, I find, it is easy to focus on the things that are not happening for me rather than to recognize the remarkable feats I accomplish each day, however small. It can take having a behavior reflected back to me from a friend or loved one. It can also take my own intention of sifting through memories to see where I was at this time in my life a year ago, two years ago, and beyond.
As they like to say, You have come a long way, baby!
And I have!