My Yoga Story is about…Balance.
Name :: Lauren R.
Occupation :: Professor
Interests/Passions :: Yoga, reading, teaching, gardening, cars, my pugs
Favorite pose :: Eagle
I’ve always been an athletic person. Throughout elementary and high school, I was on numerous basketball and track teams and also practiced martial arts as well. However, once college came and went—without much physical activity—I started graduate school in 2004 and discovered that once again, academics took priority over working out and eating well. At the time, I wasn’t very concerned because I lose weight (mostly muscle mass) when I stop working out but am naturally thin, so it didn’t occur to me that the depression I always had as a teenager was slowly creeping back into my life because of my lack of physical movement.
Grad school became increasingly stressful, but in 2007, one of my friends who had been practicing yoga for years invited me to attend a yoga session that was being taught at the community center in her town. I was immediately hooked from the first day. I couldn’t believe how calm I felt afterward, and that lightness carried with me throughout the week. I felt like I had received an hour-long massage and could move freely in my own environment for probably the first time in years. After the 11-week session was over, I found another studio nearby and attended weekly classes. I was building up strength, flexibility, and the ability to hold my depression at bay without medication. However, I eventually couldn’t work in the commute to yoga while finishing up comprehensive exams, dissertation proposal drafts, and research, so I became fully focused on academics yet again by the end of 2008.
During my last year of grad school in 2009, my life was taking an exciting but scary turn. I had gotten a full-time job teaching at my dream school, and was encouraged to finish my dissertation a semester early so as to make my application for their tenure-track job more competitive. My husband, knowing that I would get the position (I was not so sure!) made a gutsy move and put our house on the market, which I felt put even more pressure on me to get the job. I was teaching four classes a semester, finishing my dissertation, showing our house, packing for a move, and prepping for a job talk. My relationship with my husband became strained even more as he became tired of his role as the “dissertation widower.” I began to lose weight rapidly. My normal weight of 130 pounds (at 5’9”) dropped to 120 in about a week, right around Thanksgiving. I experienced my first panic attack while sitting in a restaurant with my best friend, not knowing what was happening to me because I had never really felt anxiety of that magnitude before. I dropped down to a low of 117 pounds and was having five to six anxiety attacks daily. I couldn’t stand up to lecture by my third class of the day and could no longer walk up the stairs to get to the second floor of the building where I taught.
I defended my dissertation in December of 2009 and had a complete breakdown the following month. I brought myself to my doctor who prescribed an SSRI to control my anxiety just so that I could get through the move and the job talk I had scheduled for late January. In a matter of a few days, we had moved into our new home, I had gotten the tenure-track position, and my husband and I began to repair our relationship. I was able to eat again, and when I could keep myself at 125 pounds, I went to a yoga class near the university where I teach. I was weak, tired, and had lost most of the muscle mass I had built up from the previous year’s worth of yoga. I couldn’t hold a plank, couldn’t do a push up, and became out of breath almost immediately. But I kept at it and yoga slowly brought me back up out of the mental and physical fog that had become my life. My yoga instructors are amazing. They were kind to me when I was unkind to myself, and they encouraged me to begin letting go of the anxiety I couldn’t shake on my own. Yoga was and continues to be a welcome break in my day where I can truly focus inward and get to know who I am. Being able to do my practice regularly has been the biggest reward to me. Because I couldn’t focus on myself at all during the past few years, having time to get to yoga and (literally) just breathe has helped me to slow…. everything….down….and learn about who I am as a result of the numerous life changes I’ve gone through.