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My Downward Lifestyle: Week 3

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In addition to being impatient, I'm also anxious. And an insomniac. I guess I basically have every ailment under the sun, but sleep has always been a problem for me. I remember tossing and turning all night before a topography test (yes, that's a thing) in middle school because I was positive I would never be able to dissect those contour intervals, and as a high school actress I never slept a wink the night before the fall and spring plays.

The problem with lying restlessly in bed is that my mind becomes my worst enemy. Not only are my worries magnified at 3 a.m., but the promise of an exhausting next day only makes my anxiety worse and sleep more unattainable.

It didn't come as much a surprise that my insomnia eased up when I started practicing yoga almost daily, but the pose that made room for that ease was unexpected.

Plank is known for for being a strength-building pose, and for that reason it's one of my least favorites. It engages almost every party of the body, especially the core. So when my guides decided to add a two-minute plank meditation to the end of class, I began to dread it. I mean seriously, who wants to hold an excruciating post for two minutes after relaxing in pigeon moments before?

But as the two minute planks wore on, they became easier. This was partially because they did their job and made me stronger, but I also found myself entering a meditative state each class. Because holding plank was so difficult, I had no choice but to make it as easy on myself as possible. As with most things in life, breathing deeply and staying positive made it more attainable.

So instead of thinking about how much I wanted to revert to downward dog or child's pose, I made a conscious decision to spend those two minutes -- this is corny, get ready -- "thinking happy thoughts." Every time negativity began to creep in, I would redirect my thoughts to fun weekend plans or a positive experience I'd had. Very recently, I was able to close my eyes for two minutes and breathe without thinking about anything at all.

Without realizing it, I started to apply this same practice to my sleep. Difficult poses are anxiety-inducing, as is finding myself awake in the middle of the night.

As I tossed and turned a few nights ago thinking irrational thoughts about how horrible my dentist appointment the next day would be -- I hadn't been in three years and was positive I would have to have an emergency root canal --- I began taking several deep breaths and letting positive thoughts override my negative ones. Eventually, my thoughts disappeared completely and I fell asleep. And in case you're wondering, no cavities!

I still fall out of plank sometimes, and I'm sure I'll find myself knee-deep in anxiety one night again. But it's a comfort to know that even if I'm never able get rid of my insomnia completely, I can at least make it a little more bearable.

Until next week! Namaste.

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