NotSoZen YogaJen

Posts Tagged ‘Yoga addiction

For someone as addicted to yoga as I am, who craves it and goes into withdrawal when I don’t get it, I’ve encountered a lot of obstacles to making it to yoga class this fall.

First there was my pain the neck, which felt better only to then feel worse, plus a hamstring thing thrown into the tweaked-out mix.  But then I was starting to get back my regular Vinyasa yoga practice.  And last week I had a welcome dose of Bikram bliss.  With the cold weather and some difficult  issues to grapple with, I was feining for my next Bikram fix and couldn’t wait to hit that heated studio hard.  I envisioned going to several Bikram classes this week, and vaguely entertained a fantasy of working my way up to the Bikram 30 Day Challenge.  I imagined the bliss, balance, and much-needed tranquility that  it would bring to me and my life.

Then last Saturday, what I hit hard was my toe.  I wish I could stub my toe in delicate ways that involved temporary minor discomfort and hopping around for five minutes tops, and did not involve my foot swelling up and turning blue, but unfortunately this was not the case.  I knew that bruising was usually a sign of breakage, but I also knew that there’s really not much you can do for a broken toe.  However, I was still in pain and hobbling around on Monday, so I called my podiatrist just in case.  I described my foot to the receptionist and asked if I should come into the office, thinking that she would say it was no big deal and would heal on its own.  But she put me on hold to ask the doctor, and when she got back on the phone she said, “The doctor said to come in an hour!”  Yikes.

It turns out that my toe isn’t broken, but the soft tissue is injured.  It turns out that I can’t do yoga for at least two weeks.  And it turns out that I need better peripheral vision.

So two weeks without yoga.  (I’m already halfway through, but honestly, the detox isn’t going so well.  And anyway, it’s supposed to take 21 days to break a habit.  Not that I want to break my yoga habit altogether…)  Plus I am dealing with issues, anxiety, and self-diagnosed Seasonal Affective Disorder.  Which means that until December 26th when my yoga ban is lifted, I will have to find other ways to cope.  In my forced detox from yoga, I will have to go to yoga addict rehab.  And I don’t think Dr. Drew handles that, so I’m on my own.

Until I get out of yoga rehab, when I feel these uncomfortable or sad or anxious feelings, I can’t run to yoga class to make them go away.  I have to sit with them.  Yikes.  And find other ways to work through them.   Other practices that will bring me some form of bliss, balance, and much-needed tranquility.

I’m working on this.  But I have big dreams of going to a Bikram yoga class on New Year’s Eve and sweating into the new year.  I really hope my toe heals by then.

How do you feel when you can’t get to yoga class for whatever reason?  What are your other ways of coping with stress and cultivating calm?

I’ve been on a yoga rampage and going to five or six classes a week.  I count on these classes to calm my anxiety, clear my mind, give me energy and focus, and reconnect me with myself.  Yoga classes give structure to my days, and I schedule which class I want to take and when far in advance, and then plan the rest of my day around that.

But on Friday, there was a kink in my plan.  Or rather, a kink in my back.  It started out in class as a brief surge of pain in my arm, but then I felt fine.  On Saturday morning I woke up and the kink was back in my arm.  But, I told myself, set on going to my pre-scheduled 10am intense Vinyasa yoga class, it could go either way.  Yoga could make it feel worse, but it could stretch it out and make it feel better.  The only thing is, I’ve had this thought many times in the past, and going to yoga with a tweaked out anything always, always makes it feel worse.

So early on in saluting the sun on Saturday morning, the pain spread from my arm to my back, and from an ow to an OW!  There was no avoiding/denying it any longer.  I would have to cozy up with Ben Gay and take a break from yoga until I felt un-tweaked and un-OW-ed again.

I have perhaps, possibly, casually, once or twice, maybe mentioned my yoga addiction.  Now, I’m not doing yoga by myself in a dark closet, or guzzling coconut water out of brown bag.  Yet.  But I am addicted to yoga, and I crave it.  I tell myself that I need yoga classes to have the calm, centeredness, energy, and clarity that I need for the rest of my life.  I tell myself that without my almost daily yoga classes, things (me), might (definitely) start to fall apart.

But now, here I am.  The yoga break is working to heal me, and the tweak has lessened, and moved from my back to now only my neck.  But it is still there and it is still OW, so I am on Day 2 of no yoga, and I am not feeling better enough yet to start penciling which classes I will take into my calendar for the rest of the week.  My heating pad is at the ready, and the faint, but oddly pleasant, aroma of Ben Gay permeates my apartment.

And yet.  I feel calm.  Centered.  And clear.  My mind is quiet, and I’m not anxious.  And without the 3 1/2- 4 hour chunk of time that yoga sometimes takes up, between commuting to a studio in Manhattan and taking a class, I have a lot more time in my day to focus on things that I may or may not have been avoiding.  Like my writing.  The absolute inability to even think about going to yoga class has mixed up my routine and freed up time in my schedule for my other passions that sometimes take a backseat when I am on a yoga bender.

This injury and subsequent forced abstinence from yoga class reminded me that:  1)  Asana is only a small piece of yoga and it is possible to take yoga “off the mat” and practice it in other ways, mentally and spiritually, in day-to-day life, and 2)  The effects of yoga are cumulative, and lasting, so that even if I can’t get to class for a few days, I am not going to lose the benefits of calm, centeredness, and clarity.

I am still in a bit of yoga withdrawal and excitedly anticipating getting back to class.  But I’m not sweating and curled up in the fetal position under my desk, and I don’t have the shakes or anything.  And I can see and feel the benefits of taking this break, mixing up my routine, and having time and energy for other pursuits, all while continuing to practice my yoga in different, non-physical or athletic ways and still maintaining a calm, centered, and clear yogic mind.

How do you deal with injuries that force you to slow down?  How do you feel when you can’t get to yoga class for whatever reason?  How do you then practice yoga in other ways besides asana?


Hi, my name’s Jen, and I’m a yoga-a-holic.

I have a highly addictive personality and I’ve always been grateful that this has manifested in relatively harmless soft addictions like coffee and email, and not hardcore drugs, alcohol, or even cigarettes. (Full disclosure: I smoked cigarettes in high school and college but I never got addicted and just stopped cold turkey when I wanted to.  Now I smoke approximately one-half of one cigarette every year and a half.  Usually this only happens when I’m really pissed off and I’ll call my friend Karen and say, “I’m so mad I want to blast gangsta rap and smoke half a cigarette!”)  ANYWAY, suffice it to say that I definitely lucked out with my addictions because given my, um, tendencies for being extreme, things could have gone in a whole different and much worse direction, addiction-speaking.

But lately I’ve developed an addiction that’s not only soft and relatively harmless, but dare I say, healthy.  I’ve become extra-addicted to yoga.  Over the past few weeks I had hardcore anxiety, and every day became mostly about just managing my anxiety.  I’d wake up and think, “OK, I have to get through this day, and I have X, Y, and Z to do, how can I do this given my anxiety?”  And the answer was usually, “Go to yoga.”  Make no mistake:  I’d be super-anxious regardless of if I did yoga or not, but if I did take a class it would bring my anxiety down a couple of notches to slightly-less-super-anxious so that I could do what I needed to do instead of curling up in a ball of anxiety and calling it a day.  At 8am. 

In yoga last week the teacher asked us to notice how we felt at the end of class, and then instructed us to let this be the motivation to bring us back to class.  I’d been noticing enough of a difference to motivate me to go to 5-6 classes a week and take 7:15am classes on many days, even though I am so NOT a morning person and when my alarm goes off at 6am I go through all five of Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’s Stages of Grief – Denial, Anger, Bargaining, and Depression, during which I hit the Snooze button and hard, and finally, as I drag myself out of bed and reach for my yoga mat, Acceptance.  There is an addictive edge to my yoga practice these days because going to class feels like a compulsion and like I don’t have a choice; I am addicted to how it makes me feel better, and also, sometimes, varying degrees of terrified of how I will feel if I don’t go.  But is this a bad thing?  If I’m going to have an addictive personality, it seems to me that the best thing I can do with that is channel it into healthy addictions.

At a yoga class I took years ago, the teacher talked about how we have these obsessive thought loops going all the time in our brains, but we can use that to our advantage.  Instead of just defaulting to the “I’m shit, I suck” thought mode and then hitting the repeat button and listening to that message day in and day out, we can plant an uplifting thought that makes us feel good and then obsessively repeat that.  I know, easier said than done.  But I love the idea of co-opting our obsessive tendencies for our own good, instead of letting them torture us with destructive thoughts and addictions.

On a side note, I accidentally didn’t have coffee yesterday because I was at an event all day, and this morning I had an excruciating headache, was nauseous, and had shakes.  I told the baristas at Starbucks about my withdrawal symptoms and one said, “This is a wake-up call,” and another one said, “Does this mean you’re going to stop drinking coffee?” to which I replied, “NO! It means I’m going to hook myself up an IV coffee drip and make sure I never have to go through withdrawal again!”

You won’t find me in coffee or yoga rehab anytime soon.

Do you think some addictions can be good for you?  What are your healthy addictions?



Postscript:  My massive anxiety passed, as it always does, and now I am happily back to my normal baseline level of regular anxiety.

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