Go for a walk to destress and find something beautiful.
I haven’t blogged in awhile because I’ve been working on a project called The Strange is Beautiful with my friend Savannah Metzger to spread awareness of anxiety disorders and depression. Our goal is to teach the world that anxiety disorders and depression aren’t so strange, but are common, require understanding, and are easier to live with than we think.
More info will be posted once our site is launched
Email me if you’d like to join our campaign, or if you’re a fellow yogi and would like to help us spread hope !! – email@example.com
Also, if you or a loved one has any type of mental illness, please check these helpful websites:
And this article Savannah wrote
—For anyone wondering WHY DOES SHANNEN DO YOGA??? And for people with anxiety, panic, or depression.
***This is mainly about my personal journey!!! Next Thurs’s post will be the facts on why keeping a routine of exercising, regular sleep, and eating healthily keeps anxiety at bay <3333
Everyone begins their yoga practice for different reasons. Maybe it was because Victoria’s Secret has models wearing their new yoga pants that say “PINK” across the butt, or because their friends were all trying classes so they thought what the hell, why not. Or perhaps their doctor recommended yoga as a part of their healing process…or they believe yoga will make them look like a sexy Victoria’s Secret model.
I started a serious yoga practice in my junior year of high school when I was forever falling deeper down a black hole of anxiety and had worn out all my other options. It was really just a lucky guess that yoga helped me. I always thought my brain was just messed up, until I did some research.
“My brain is wired differently follow a formula to breathe, but someone fucked up the formula so the answer is always wrong.” – lyrics from a collab I did with The Unending Thread called ‘Brains.’
Anxiety. Panic. Depression. They’re really all linked. For those who have it, or have had it, they understand. For those that haven’t, let me explain.
Anxiety – A feeling of dread. Of being nervous. Scared that something bad might happen. Scared in general.
Side effects: Profusely sweating, parched mouth, shaky hands, stuttering, stomach aches, shortness of breath
Panic – Some call it an anxiety attack, others call it a panic attack. A few minutes of terror, or sometimes much, much longer.
Side effects: Change in body temperature (from feeling literally lit on fire, to completely freezing in the snow), shaking or twitching of the body, hyperventilation, stomach aches, unable to speak well or at all, screaming or crying about general fear
And in extreme cases: hallucination, loss of vision, loss of hearing, blacking out
Depression – Feeling sad, down, dreading life. No motivation to do anything. Can last for a day, a few hours.
Clinical Depression – Can cause inability to work, sleep, focus, eat, and enjoy once-pleasurable activities. Often times, clinical depression can come and go in cycles and may last weeks, months, or a year.
Side Effects: Over-eating, fatigue, over-sleeping, sensitivity to specific subjects, not eating at all, not sleeping at all, mood swings
Treatment Options For All of the Above – Smoke weed, drink all day everyday, pop some pills, have your boyfriend/girlfriend baby you and deal with your attacks, pay for counseling, or exercise + sleep + eat well.
It took me a long time to figure out that beautiful and cheap formula to freedom. To happiness of the Self.
On top of high school, I was teaching 10 students, running a club I founded known as Music & Songwriting Club, recording my solo songs on the side, and performing almost every weekend…plus school and homework. The club is really what took over my life. Meetings once a week, lunch shows twice a month, festivals once a semester. I wrote many songs about my anxiety.
Also, due to many injuries, I had just quit dancing for Santa Clarita Ballet Company-which is no doubt the most serious, demanding, and prestigious ballet studio in the valley.
Going from dancing 5 times a week plus production rehearsals, shows, and Royal Academy of Dance (RAD) exams to no exercise at all and being in chronic pain was the scariest transition of my life. And at a tender age of 16, I really didn’t know how to cope well with the abrupt change.
My mother had always kept me busy. She thought it wise to do many things at once, to give 100% effort to all, and to finish them. To not quit.
I quit dance.
But I had to for my body’s health. It was stressing me out trying to push my body to be at the level of my fellow dancers that, besides becoming injured, my stomach compensated for the amount of the stress. I began to have the worst stomach problems. At times, I was completely bedridden because of the pain.
My mother has always been a health junkie. Whether it be running, tennis, swimming, Gilad cardio videos, Pilates, or yoga, she’s alway been a work-out-aholic. When I was 12 and had received my first knee injury, she suggested I go to yoga with her. That maybe it’ll encourage me to stay active, to keep my body moving, even with an injury.
I freaked out when I saw my mother do a headstand in class…I didn’t even try.
When I quit dance, she became very worried that I wouldn’t ever be active again. We all know how moms are, they are persistent and worry often. She handed me a Rodney Yee yoga video and told me to “try it when I get a chance” meaning, “you better not get fat so start exercising!”
I didn’t finally pop in the DVD until I felt completely sick. Physically, and mentally ill, weak, and vulnerable.
“I do it because it makes me feel happy. As if the whole world were happy because I am. Obey the whispering secrets that promise, and guarantee my bliss and sanity. I am happy.” – lyrics from my song ‘Happy.’
Everyday, I repeated the tape.
I had no idea what I was doing or what the hell yoga actually was, but I followed Rodney hoping this thing called “yoga” would make my anxiety, stomach problems, and injuries go away.
Is that too much to ask for?
By my senior year, I felt completely happy. It was so new to me, this happiness. The loss of stress. My friends noticed it too. They told me I didn’t get mad as often, that I could deal with stressful situations very well, and adapted easily to change. Slowly, secretly, my friends began to reveal that they were beginning to have anxiety, or panic, or depression, and I became the go-to-advisor.
“Don’t think I don’t understand, don’t think I can’t feel. I have emotions. What you feel is real. Terrors torture. They don’t leave when you close your eyes at night.” lyrics from GrowYoung’s song ‘Screams Echo Alone.’
My first actual class was at YogaYoga in Newhall when I was 17. Immediately after class I asked the owner, “how do I become a teacher?” I took one of their hardest classes, and the instructor suggested I move on to practicing at YogaWorks and to take their teacher training instead because it’s more known and detailed.
Both my mom and I began taking classes 3 to 5 times a week at YogaWorks Valencia in the summer that I graduated high school.
And now I am here. Graduated from my 200 Hour Teacher Training at YogaWorks Valencia in November of 2012. Soon to be taking the 300 Hour Training in August 2015.
Usually, I feel the reason I go to my mat is to cope with my neck injury and to keep my mood balanced. However, sometimes I still have a bit of anxiety on especially stressful days. But I work through it, because now I have the tools to do so. I’ll never forget why I began my practice, my roots. History is important to remember, so it does not repeat itself. If you begin to taste the indigestion of your past rising up onto your tastebuds, acknowledge it, and begin to retrain your brain. Remember the steps you took to get back to your own bliss. Though you may need a little help on the way, only you can blow your candle out. Only you can light your way.
Yoga is my medicine. And my injuries are my best teachers.
Raga – Suffering from attachment. Wanting things you can’t have. Wanting things that aren’t there. Attachment to a person, place, thing, idea, or feeling. A branch of avidya, or ignorance.
After being enlightened by my spontaneous trip to Portland, Sequim, and Seattle, I am now anxious from attachment that has grown like the moss that overwhelms the rooftops of Oregon and Washington, and causes them to collapse in winter time.
I can either sit in these feelings of anxiety, these desires to once again see those tall green trees that are so different and plentiful than these dry saharan LA bushes, or move and keeping moving.
This is where yoga helps me. Yoga is my medicine. It is the most natural way to cure, cope, and find balance.
I was very playful during my trip, and I brought that sense of playfulness to my mat in class tonight. I took a Level 1/2 Hatha Yoga class at YogaWorks Valencia, and though Aundrea Politi guided us, I played with her directions and added on. In high lunge and high lunge twists, I grabbed on to my back foot. In vasisthasana, I lifted my top leg up. In handstand, I challenged myself to use my core to lift up rather than relying on the wall.
I fell out of the high lunge a few times, and wobbled a bit when my leg was up in vasisthasana. I was unable to actually get into handstand by using my core. But I played. I had fun. I felt bliss where there was challenge.
It was a challenge to get myself to travel on my own. Without my parents. Without anyone! To take a risk, and trust in humanity. To trust that the people I was visiting, whom I didn’t know very well, would greet me with open arms and treat me with kindness.
And they did.
The chemistry between two kind strangers is beautiful and surprising. I forgot that the human race cares about each other.
My trip was perfect. But now I must ground my mind in the world I actually live in. Return to my routine, to my jobs, to my home tasks.
My mind is not fully grounded back home in LA, there’s still a part of it expecting to see the majestic waterfalls cascading down the mountain sides in Portland, expecting to still have to feed my grandmother’s llamas and donkeys at 5pm, and to help her with dinner afterwards, and to hear the friendly voices of the northwest rather than being shoved around and not cared for at all by Californians in LA.
But these feelings of attachment, of raga, will soon pass. It is merely “post travel syndrome,” in which I desire to be back on the road catching flights, trains, and buses, trying new foods, meeting new people, and feeling something DIFFERENT. Escaping LA.
Portland, Sequim, Seattle, you were my escape. Thank you for everything. I miss you, and will return to you soon.
But for now, hello LA. I know better than to expect a warm welcome home from you, but I’m ready to trip and fall until I land in my niche again.