Today I remembered why doing slow yoga sequences is so hard for me. Minutes before I laid out my mat, I passed one of the upstairs bedrooms while a show played. I had periodically watched episodes of the show and was impressed with some of the characters and ideas. (I won’t specify which show it was because I don’t think it’s necessary.) However, when I passed the room to change for yoga, a scene flashed before me that floored me emotionally. After that, my brain kept trying to sort through and process what I saw.
Doing an hour of slow breathing and posing almost killed me. The whole sequence, I felt like I was facing what I saw over and over again, trying to fix it and reassure myself of what I know is right.
Some people do softer yoga to relax and forget about things that upset them. I do intensive sequences because they help me burn through those problems. If I slow down, my thoughts become so heavy it’s self debilitating. My counselor almost five years ago called it Obsessive Compulsive Thinking. The only time I become like this is if I face situations, ideas, or people who directly oppose my spiritual or moral beliefs.
The best way to describe it is I get stuck in my thoughts trying to fix the unfixable. Though the problems I face in my head seem easy to let go from the outside, its not so simple. Those conflicts and the emotions they arouse feel very real. Sometimes they are absolutely terrifying. Renee Fabian explained this very well in her article “How to Stop Obsessive Thinking.”
Obsessive thoughts can impact both your mood and functioning. When they enter our mind, generally our first instinct is some level of discomfort, followed by attempts to banish the unwanted visions. This is human nature: When something is bad, we avoid it. The stove is hot, so we don’t touch it. Simple. But obsessive thinking is a different beast.
When we try to avoid a thought while in an obsessive state, the brain keeps reminding us about the unwanted thought so we don’t forget to stop thinking about it. It’s the same basic principle behind being told not to think about something — say a pink elephant — and our next thought becoming exactly what we are not supposed to think about.Renee Fabian, How to Stop Obsessive Thinking
Knowing this, it is easy to imagine how I felt yesterday trying to breathe deeply and move slowly while fighting these thoughts. Luckily, I established for myself a pattern to ease myself out of this pattern of thinking. First, I RECOGNIZE I am having harmful compulsive thoughts. Second, I REVIEW the thoughts. Third, I RELABEL them. Last, I face them and mentally walk away from them. Usually I have to repeat this process many times before my thoughts settle down.
For anyone else who grapples with anxiety and Obsessive Compulsive Thinking, having these kinds of thoughts is okay. What’s most important is knowing we are not our thoughts and it’s okay to struggle to calm ourselves. There is nothing wrong with us. Everyone to one degree or another faces these kinds of trials.
Thank you for reading! See you tomorrow.