My boyfriend and I are having a little “trouble” in the bedroom.
Whoa, waitaminute, not like that. We (or rather I) am having trouble falling asleep. For the past two months, I’ve spent every night in a bed of three (counting Willow) whereas for my entire life, I’ve largely slept alone.
But this isn’t the problem. The problem is I’m super sensitive to sound. Get me in a room with a ticking clock and it’s ALL over.
So I latch on to repetitive deep breathing and other noises as I’m trying to fall asleep, and then I can’t. And then I resent that I can’t fall asleep because sleep is one of my favorite things in the whole world and I’m useless the next day without it.
Usually, I wear ear plugs. But for the rest of my life?
My little sensitivity is creating a huge relationship rift and I’m finally realizing, just as I did with depression, that my environment is not going to change.
My internal atmosphere has to.
How do you breathe when you realize breathing is a problem?
Standing out and fitting in
In fourth grade when we learned how to write cursive with pens, I refused to use blue ink like everyone else. This was my go-to fact for “funny things you don’t know about me” icebreakers.
Using black ink only gave me a sense of importance that, looking back, is completely silly and eye-roll worthy.
You might have your own “black ink” example. If you do, it’s the words that come right before, “Well, we all have our quirks.”
Our quirks are mostly harmless until they start hurting other people. As teens, we’re constantly turning the volume up or down on our likes and dislikes, searching for ways to fit in or stand out or stay out of the way.
Is it that different as adults? Who we befriend; what we eat; even what type of pet we have comes down to preferences.
Pick a quirk — a behavior you’ve chosen for a long time that others might consider “odd” — and spend a minute trying to trace its origin. I mean, really think back to when, where and why you chose to act this way.
It feels like trying to outline a single ant in a swarm.
What we label shows up in our lives, for better or worse, and lingers long after you forget why you gave it a label in the first place.
Realizing that something’s gotta give can surface shame and fear and lots of questions. In my case, how am I going to learn to unhear all the noises that bug me?
But more than this is the fear that if you don’t change, you might lose a companion or even yourself.
Yoga is a practice of learning how to turn down the volume on the irritations — on a life that doesn’t strive to stand out or fit in but just is. One way to do this is to turn the volume up on your own breath.
On the yoga mat I’ve drowned out shame and anger and even my own tears. Like that “How are you feeling today?” cartoon, you can tell my mood by my movement. My asanas are simplest when anxious or hurting. I stay close to the floor or on my back. I rest in Child’s Pose for an eternity. I twist my spine, but I’m really wringing out that discomfort in my heart.
And I guess all this is to say that I may not identify with depression and I may not be in the thick of it, but it still shows up in new forms.
Part of keeping the ickiness away is by not labeling it. When emotions overwhelm, close your eyes and breathe into them, saying It is what it is. Inhale for a count of six, exhale for nine. Trying placing your hands over your heart and your feet on the ground.
You don’t need to know “how” you’re going to change. You just need the willingness to try.
And then you need to regain your breath, especially if breathing is the problem.
Try it: Plow Pose, Halasana
This pose used to scare me because, well, you can’t see what you’re doing. You have to trust that somewhere over your head are your legs and that you’re not straining your neck or spine by trying to get said legs up and over.
But I can’t deny how alive I feel after curling my spine back to the mat. Maybe you don’t always have to see what’s ahead in order to arrive safely.
Note: If you have injured your neck or spine, please do not attempt this pose.
- Lie down on your back with your arms by your sides. Inhale and raise your legs so your feet stack above the hips at a 90-degree angle.
- On another inhale, lift from the pelvis and bring your hands to support your low back as you smoothly sweep your legs overhead and behind you, toes touching the ground. Don’t worry if you need a few tries. Breathe evenly and move slowly to keep your neck safe.
- Bring your arms back down to the mat, palms face down. Press gently back through the heels and lift the chin ever-so-slightly away from the chest to ensure even air flow.
- Stay for a few breaths or for five.
- On an exhale, bend the knees and tuck the pelvis down to the mat as you unfurl your legs overhead and back to your starting position. Roll onto your side before coming up to seated.