Yoga Found Me

From guest blogger Auriel Benker:

My first introduction to yoga was at various gyms around the Indianapolis area shortly after graduating high school. I dabbled for 10 years until late 2012 when a friend invited me to a hot vinyasa class at a true yoga studio. I was ready to get fit and look amazing! I loved dripping with sweat and feeling like I had detoxed every cell in my body through the intense workout and heated room. I was hooked on a couple classes a week.

Then, in February 2013, I had a panic attack before boarding a plane to go on vacation. (No, I wasn’t afraid to fly. I was scared to death I would MISS my flight.)

Auriel and her husband Ryan at the Grand Canyon.

The flight that started my daily panic attacks was for this vacation!

From that day on, every morning, upon awaking to my first trivial thought for the day, I had a panic attack. I could feel the stress hormones coursing through my body, tingling down to my fingers and toes, and my stomach would tie itself in knots, leaving me nauseous for hours. I had already made a resolution that year to meditate each day, and I saw some progress in reducing the symptoms. That’s when yoga really became important to me. I started to notice glimpses of peace in my Savasanas, so I started trying every kind of yoga.

In September 2013, I stumbled into a led primary Ashtanga class. (Hey, it was right after my Kundalini class, so why not?) I quickly realized that this was a room full of hardcore yogis–going into poses called out in Sanskrit, flipping backwards in Chakrasanas, dropping into backbends, folding into full lotus with arm balances, and finishing it off with a headstand. I was blown away. I realized that I wanted this. I wanted the challenge!

I began my (almost) daily Mysore practice, memorizing pose after pose in the primary sequence, and after a few weeks I noticed something…my anxiety was improving, along with my digestion! I had stronger awareness of my mind, body, and energy and with that, the power and focus to effect change. But something even greater happened during this moving meditation. I found an inner spiritual connection that was missing. And my mat became my sacred place of devotion and healing, my holy ground that I could take anywhere–just like my Ashtanga practice.

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