Last year I got on a plane alone!
To some people this is no big deal, but this is a line I never thought I would be able to say.
Way before I found Yoga in my early twenties I suffered from often crippling anxiety in my early twenties that hindered my life, but I tried to ignore and supress it, meaning things eventually snowballed and I developed many irrational fears in my twenties, one of which was flying.
It was so bad a few years ago that I shamefully left my mum to get on a 45 minute flight alone to Northern Ireland, for a family reunion to see some of my Grandad’s family shortly after his death.
I felt terrible. I couldn't even get myself to the airport to support my Mum and it had now been nearly 8 years since I left the country due to my fear of even boarding a plane.
After that day I vowed something needed to change, but I wasn't sure how. It was still another few years till I actually boarded a plane making it 10 years since I had even left the country.
Never one to do things by halves my first trip back on a plane after a decade, was to Thailand with a group of friends. I had to medicate and drink to even get me to the airport and control my severe anxiety. The tears, the shaking, the constant phone calls to anyone close to me before I boarded. The irrational thinking that never ceased even when friends used to give me 'the more likely to die in a road accident' statistics.
Today things are very different
I sat in a coffee shop in New York writing some of this, after flying here from Toronto, Canada with my Mum to see the same family I should have seen 5 years ago in Northern Ireland. A trip to see these countries not so long ago wasn’t even imaginable.
The practice of Yoga and the appearance of some wonderful teachers in my life have taught me the crucial aspect of staying present, the ability to keep the body grounded by using the breath to calm my nervous system, when my body begins to go in to fight or “flight” mode and has helped me live life to the fullest again.
I forget how much my life has changed and how much of that I owe to Yoga.
It has brought me back to the person I always was.
Yoga not only helped me get back on a plane, but it was also a reason to get on one when I went to do the life changing experience of my training to be a teacher over in Spain last year.
Fear and anxiety will always creep in at times, but rather than fight it I have learned to lean in to it and accept it, instead using a change in mind set to bring me into the present and out of my head.
Thank you to the universe for putting me on to this path to not only learn to help myself, but these days to now teach, guide and try to help others work through their own challenges.
I’ll never love flying, there’s sometimes still tears and I often still think I’m not being irrational to be scared in a tin object thousands of feet up! But I have learned to trust what is, to trust the pilots and let go of the control and trust in the universe and others. And I always show gratitude and thank the flight team when getting off the plane!
And although its all slightly embarrassing when I’m back on the ground, it has shown me there is so much kindness in the world when we look for it or need it, from complete strangers who have noticed my anxiety on flights and have talked to me about it or given me a tissue.
I always have that comfort of knowing there will be someone to help if needed and hopefully one day I can be at the stage where I can do the same for someone else.
As I update this post I have just got back from teaching on my 2nd retreat in Portugal, it was a pretty windy and scary landing, but it’s times like that I come back to my yoga off the mat, my breath and remind myself it is enabling me to travel and teach in some amazing places!
Here’s to making up for lost time and making many more journeys to see different parts of the world!