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.)
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.