Yoga has the power to empower and inspire people all over the world. For me, it helped save me from narcissistic abuse. When I was 14, an abuser came into my life. At that stage in life, I was a young teen. I was young and impressionable and felt like the world was against me. It was then that a 20 year old man came in like a knight in shining armor; he seemed to understand me and made me feel special.
I could write a book about the following 17 years and the hell I went through.
At a young age, he started to control and shape my very opinions. He wouldn’t allow me to make any decisions and if I tried, he’d become upset and made me feel worthless for it. As the years went on, he shaped every thought and opinion I had; including controlling relationships with my family and friends. He also kept me powerless by controlling my own money. He would guilt me into spending my money for his needs – even though he made MUCH more then I – until I didn’t have enough to make ends meet. Then he’d give me just enough to get by so that I financially relied on him. He had to know everything I did and everywhere I went. He also made it so that eventually he was all there was, all I had, and all I could trust. This man even shaped my opinion of God so that I no longer trusted in a loving higher power.
During this time in my life, I lived in a state of state of anxiety so high – wanting to please him and feel like I was enough. I struggled with agoraphobia, panic attacks, and PTSD, all the while he convinced me these things came because I was weak, not because he took away every ounce of strength I had. I survived on medications, social avoidance, and walked through life like a miserable and broken puppet on a string.
Friends, family, even therapists tried to make me see what was happening to no avail. I was brainwashed. I was held hostage in an emotional prison of his making that there was NO escape hatch from.
Many things happened at once to have finally given me the strength to break free but the one I must give the most credit to is YOGA.
I started doing Yoga through online videos. Then I made a friend at work that fueled my interest more. As I gained a sense of accomplishment through learning new physical positions – my confidence in myself began to grow. I became more involved in this gentle exercise and before I knew it, I’d began to find my own inner light. I found that for the first time in my life, I had an identity on my yoga mat that was my own. I had a self-esteem that was built from within and not dependent on this abuser’s opinion of my self-worth. I even began to rebuild my faith in a higher power.
Eventually I learned to bring what I gained on the yoga mat into my life, and I found the strength to break off my relationship with my abuser. We’d broken up many times over the years but it was always him doing the breaking up and me doing ANYTHING I could to get him back. How VERY empowering that I had the power now. He still stayed in my life as a friend, however I did my best to distance myself from him.
When I began the yoga teacher program, I didn’t tell him. I recognized his power to shape my opinion and I didn’t want to risk his influence. I wanted SO badly to prove I could do this on my own. That I could accomplish something without him. And I did!
It was shortly after I gained my yoga teacher certification that he left again. This time however, due to the inner strength I’d cultivated through my yoga practice and new found self worth nurtured from my time on my yoga mat, I was no longer dependent on him. When he disappeared from my life this time as a “punishment,” refered to as ghosting — I happily let him go and in my now open heart wished him well.
I still find insecurities and anxieties from the years of gaslighting from a narcissistic abuser — but I now know I have the space and ability to work through them and most importantly; to heal. What’s more, I have the ability to share them with you now.
How To Use Yoga To Work Through Anxiety & PTSD
Mental health struggles such as anxiety and PTSD rob us of our sense of safety and identity. By regular practice on our mats we can create a safe space to let go and just be. As cliche as “let go” and “just be” have become, they are truly the foundation I’ve built on for finding myself again.
A Meditation for Self Acceptance
Find a comfortable position on your mat in Easy pose or Savasana with your spine straight. Take some long and deep cleansing breathes in and out. Allow yourself to focus the sensation of the air going in and out of your lungs.
On your third inhale, hold the breath — and in pause between inhaling and exhaling allow yourself to fully release all false beliefs, fears, and insecurities you’re holding onto. As you exhale, feel all those negative energies leaving your body through your breath.
On your next inhale, feel how much lighter your energy feels. Repeat this, and continue using the pause on every third breath to release things that no longer serve your higher good. Do this for as long as you need. On your last exhale, smile knowing you are free from all things that are not true to your happiness.
It’s ok if this exercise makes you emotional. If you feel angry, sad, feel the need to cry, or scream – accept it and allow these emotions to be there. Acknowledge your feelings and let them go. This powerful practice allows your feelings to be validated, while reminding yourself that they do not need to be held onto.
Remind yourself that It’s OK to feel however you feel. Repeat to yourself the following mantra, “I am enough, just as I am.”
You may not always like who you are each day, but that’s OK! Accept yourself AS YOU ARE and know that where you are, is where you need to be on your journey to a better you.
Yoga Poses For Inner Strength
1. Warrior 1 & 2
Virabhadrasana or Warrior pose on the physical level teaches us to open ourselves up to the unknown. It also teaches us to improve our balance and to strengthen our foundation by building strength in our feet, hamstrings, glutes and core. These lessons are mirrored internally as we sink into the pose and allow the Warrior inside of us to come forth. This pose also helps us find the balance between yin and yang or strength and vulnerability. It also fuels us with an inner confidence we can lead our lives from.
2. Camel Pose
In Ustrasana or Camel pose, we allow ourselves to open up our chakra or energy centers to clear away blockages especially in the heart center and solar plexus. It is in these two chakras where we house our love and our personal power. In this pose, we are vulnerable but not unprotected. Camel pose reminds us that we can have an open and inviting heart, while still being able to function within our own power and set safe personal boundaries.
3. Tree pose
In Vrksasana or Tree pose we learn to be honest with ourselves to find our own personal balance required to hold ourselves upright in this challenging times in our lives. Tree pose gives us a chance to look within and accept our truth. It also encourages us to act from that place of truth we discover from within ourselves. When we can learn to honor ourselves in this way – no one can dishonor you.
Above all else, be patient and kind with yourself. Some days will be harder then others. Some days will be easier. You didn’t get to today by being weak or giving up, you got here because you are strong, and beautiful, and SO very worth all of your efforts.
Love and Light,