Monday, July 29, 2013

Yoga for Anxiety and Depression at Kripalu: Day One

So, considering that it's been ten days since my experience at Kripalu and a really long time since I updated this blog, I've decided that I need to start sharing here tonight before I try to get some sleep.

First off, let me just say that the day I left for Kripalu, I was a big ball o' nerves. Someone had posted something on my Facebook page about her experience at Kripalu, which apparently wasn't a very good one, and after looking up a couple of reviews of the place online, I set myself up for a major freakout. A few of the reviews talked about rooms that were full of overpowering body odor, filthy lobby restrooms, and just a generally unkempt place. So, of course, I started wondering if I wasn't about to make a $500 mistake.

As I drove up the drive to Kripalu, I had to fight down the nausea. It was about 96 degrees, and thankfully, I had driven the whole way down to the Berkshires in the relatively luxurious comfort of the air conditioned minivan. But as soon as I stepped out of the van, that hot air hit me like a ton of bricks. Between that and the nerves, I felt like a cat in a Chinese restaurant.

The other thing that made me nervous was a review I had read complaining about the lack of air conditioning. I don't do well in the heat. If it gets warmer than 80 degrees, I'm in the pool with a cold cloth across the back of my neck. HOW was I going to survive two nights in a room without air conditioning?! (To clarify: the newer Annex building at Kripalu does have air conditioning. The main building, however, does not. I was staying in the main building.)

I got myself checked in, and, fighting off the feeling of being faint from the heat and the anxiety, I hauled my bags up to my room.

Before I got my bags from my car, I had to pop into the ladies' room. I was thrilled to see that it was pretty much spotless - so that gave me my first indication that things had changed significantly at Kripalu since those online reviews were written.

Once I got into my room, I was happy to see that at least there was a sink in the room. I spent the next two hours alternating between standing with my head in that sink, dousing myself with water as cold as I could stand it, and lying on the bed in savasana with cold, wet washcloths on every part of my body I could reach.

I was nervous about my roommate. I was nervous about the program. How was I going to do yoga in 96 degrees without air conditioning? My room was on the 3rd floor - would I be able to sleep in this heat? Would I get sick from the heat? (Which has happened to me before.)

Since I had a sandwich with me, I decided to skip dinner. Yes, my food anxiety was hitting me hard, probably because of the insane heat. At one point, I put on a light coverup over my tank top and shorts, grabbed my journal, and went out in search of a room that was air conditioned. I walked all over the third floor and found nothing, but as I walked past certain banks of offices, I could feel ice cold air blowing against my feet from underneath the door. I resisted the temptation to lay down on the floor so that I could feel that cold air blowing on my face, too.

My program, Yoga for Emotional Balance: Healing Anxiety and Depression, had a 7:30 p.m. session, so I trudged down one floor at 7:25 to the Main Hall.

I was in good company: there were around 75 people in this class. Apparently, a lot of us wanted help using yoga to heal our anxiety and depression.

The air in the room was stifling. It was almost unbearable. There were stations set up around the huge room with ice water and large tubs of washcloths submerged in ice water. But it was so hot that the washcloths only really stayed cool for a few minutes before they were just hot and wet.

We did a couple of breathing exercises, and then did what the instructor called an "ice savasana" where we laid in a very supported savasana with ice cold washcloths on the head or neck.

I could not relax in that heat. Even with the cold washcloth. I was suffering. I was nervous. I was anxious. As soon as we started to come out of savasana, I popped up, ditched my washcloth in the basket with the rest of the used cloths, and went back to my room.

I took a shower as cold as I could stand it in an effort to just lower my body temperature. I was panicked by the heat. Since there was no one else in the bathroom, I let myself cry. I was scared, but at the same time, I felt as though this was a therapeutic release of some kind - the more I cried, the better I felt. It felt as though I was letting go of 30 years of fear and anxiety.

I had a chat with my roommate, and then we tried to sleep.

It was hard. I laid awake, reading on my iPad in an effort to distract myself from my discomfort in the heat, my pounding heart, and my fear, bubbling just below the surface.

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