At first it was mainly just for fun—something new and exciting to try. And I felt good afterward—like really good. I fed off the adrenaline. I began doing it more and more, and soon I found myself thinking about it during work, while talking to friends, all the time. When I couldn’t satisfy my urge, I began feeling irritable, stiff, and sad.
It occurred to me then that I was utterly and hopelessly addicted. And it had never felt so right.
Oh, did I mention I’m talking about yoga? Yes, my addiction is severe, but luckily, it is also a positive influence. When I hear the word "addiction," I automatically think of something bad, something wrong and shameful. But, in reality, we can be addicted to all sorts of things, good and bad. And I somehow stumbled into an addiction that has helped me stabilize my mental state and make me a fitter, healthier, and more confident person.
Yoga has become, as addictions go, my safety net, my go-to in times of need, my crutch, if you will. I feel that our society has such a fear of "addiction" that we try to push away dependence on anything. But what I've come to realize about myself is that I need to depend on something. Sure, I'd like to be completely self-sufficient and confident in my own being, but honestly I have many times when sitting within myself feels too overwhelming. It's in those moments that I look for something else to carry me through.
Before finding yoga, I looked down many other roads; temptations here, experiments there. They all held possibilities, but never answers. They held comfort in the moment, but fear and anxiety—and even worse, shame—once the fun was over. I've tried to distract myself with the usual—partying, eating, crushing on boys, zoning out to TV. They all did the trick to distract me from my real worries and problems, for a bit. These momentary pleasures allow my mind to flow to where it pleases, never stopping on anything for too long. But when brought back to the shore of reality, my anxieties are just as prominent, just as sharp and searing.
Instead of mindfulness, I sought mindlessness as a way of calming my nerves, fears, and sadness.
With yoga, I've found a calm within myself that I didn't know existed. Yoga doesn't ask you to sit down and quickly sort through your problems. Instead, it asks you to sit and be. It challenges me to be my pure self—completely in tune, completely sober, completely aware. Instead of seeking distractions from myself, I focus on the pose, my breath, and the sound of the inhales and exhales throughout the studio. I'm encouraged to continually focus back into my Self, rather than reaching for external things to carry me through.
As I lie in Savasana at the end of class, I sense a tingling through my body, a clarity of mind, and a freedom from anxiety. Soon enough the worries will return; they will always do, of course. But instead of turning to chocolate cake or a beer, I know I'll return to yoga.
When asked about my practice, I get butterflies. When entering a yoga room, I feel calmed. When exiting the class, I feel pure. My drug of choice sure is powerful and I'm dutifully addicted, but I've never felt so healthy or so alive.
Jessica Abelson is the Web Editorial Assistant at Yoga Journal.