by Jillian Pransky
The short story is…I’d been teaching yoga for about six years when I’d had my first panic attack. My 34-year-old sister-in-law had died recently and I’d gone to help pack up her possessions. On the way home, I felt like I, myself, was about to die.
Driving from Maryland to New York City, my arms went numb, I became dizzy and short of breath, my vision blurred and my muscles were shaking and weak. I was sure I was having a heart attack. (After all, heart disease runs in my family). So, when I was diagnosed by ER doctors as having an anxiety attack, I argued with them. How could I be having an anxiety attack? I’m a yoga teacher…
Yet, this is the moment when my deepest yoga practice began. When the anxiety cracked my protective armor and revealed layers of vulnerability as I’ve never experienced it before.
We live under the illusion that we can control the events of our lives. That things can be controlled.
Coming to terms with my anxiety allowed me to create a practice that begins with establishing a foundation upon which we feel safe. A recurring theme in my teachings is helping someone develop the skills and tools needed to live a robust life while becoming open to and accepting of life’s duality. We explore what it feels like when we experience ourselves, and life, as “solid” and as not so solid.
From there, we start developing a practice that “supports” our life, in the same way our feet support our bodies on the earth. The first step in this process is getting grounded.
When we are grounded, we are experiencing our mind, breath, and our body in the same place at the same time – we are embodied. This allows us to be relaxed and present in a way that nothing else does. The foundational question for my practice, my life, and the way I teach is how do we become grounded, in this moment of time?
Through continually checking in with myself and the environment around me, and taking care to stay balanced, I have not had any further “attacks.” But be sure…I do take the time, to take care of myself in this way.
And, while I practice this way all year round, I am particularly aware that in this season we require even more attention to practices of grounding, insulating, and calming. For the odds are high that we may not only be blown away by autumn’s awe-striking beauty, but also by her “windy” qualities. Even the most stable of us may feel a little less rooted through out this transitional season.
In Ayurveda, the fall is known as Vata season. Vata is the “air” element characterized by wind and movement as well as coolness, lightness, and dryness. It is this energy that brings us through the elimination process and aging process overall. In autumn and early winter, it is the dominant energy both around and within us. Therefore, this time of year can cause us to have a harder time feeling grounded and calm; we may agitate, anger, or stress more easily, become more anxious, scattered, or “spacey,” experience less rejuvenating sleep, or deplete faster than normal.
In just a short practice, you can start your day with a sense of strength, ease and mindfulness. In this sequence you will flow through standing poses to create groundedness, side body openers and breathe awareness to lift your energy and promote clarity, and an active forward bend, to help soothe your nervous system without making you sleepy. Feel free to begin or follow this practice with a seated mindfulness meditation. Press play above or click here to start your practice.
KEEP IN MIND FOR YOUR DAILY PRACTICE IN CLASS OR AT HOME: THE FOCUS IS ON GROUNDING.
Make sure you do not over extend or deplete yourself in your practices this season. Practice should be strengthening and revitalizing but never draining or depleting. It is not the time to become exhausted and ungrounded.
Always move at a slow, smooth, steady pace. Let your poses be fluid (not staccato or rigid.). Move like you are moving through water.
Poses should encourage stability, but don’t hold for too long that you become rigid.
Let your awareness return over and over to your feet and your legs, the foundation of the pose. Imagine staying connected to the earth. Emphasis rooting down through your big toes even as you feel your heels deep in the earth.
Jillian Pransky is an international presenter, National Director of Restorative Therapeutic Yoga Teacher Training for Yoga Works and co-founder of the Bright Spirit Yoga Teacher Training. She leads programs at Kripalu, Omega and Mohonk. Jillian’s Calm Body, Clear Mind DVD and Relaxmore CD have garnered excellent reviews from many including Dr. Memhet Oz. She has been featured in many magazines including Yoga Journal, Self Magazine, Family Circle and appeared on CNN.