May is Mental Health Awareness month. Doing yoga and practicing mindfulness is often a way to improve mental health by bringing awareness to times when the mind is spinning out of control or stress is overtaking your life.
Meet Araiza, one of our front desk yogis. We asked her to share her story - read on:
Until I turned 18, I played every rule in The Game of Life correctly. I did so by way of graduating each stage of adolescence under the strict hand of my parents and the teachings of our Catholic church. The small, pink game peg - determining my role as a young girl - established a place for me in this hierarchy: inferior.
I was promised that if I did everything correctly, I could win Life. I started taking interest in dance at a young age which brought on a whole other layer of rules and disciplines in my life. I blindly put all my faith into doing everything perfectly.
It took 5 years before I was diagnosed with anxiety and panic disorders. The doctors explained it by saying that everything I experienced felt more intense than the average person. From such a young age, I interpreted failure as the end of the world and success as my life source. I had paralyzing perfectionism. I did not want to do anything because I was afraid to fail.
I began to realize about myself that when I start to panic, I become stuck in my body and feel incapable of accomplishing anything. I have non-stop tapes in my head, telling me all the reasons I can’t do something. My interest in dance took off in high school and by my freshman year, I was dancing with a pre-professional company in Houston. Dance was something that came natural to me and was enjoyable for my ADHD brain. However, I was constantly told by my teacher, “I know being perfect is impossible but I expect you to be perfect.” A mantra so obviously self-contradictory, yet I fell victim to it time and time again. I felt my role as a company member included never disappointing my teachers and I took on the challenge of being perfect.
In the fall of 2015, I moved to Boston to study contemporary dance at The Boston Conservatory at Berklee. It was a big accomplishment for me to be accepted into such a prestigious program. Every adult in my life congratulated me and I was eager to make everyone proud and accomplish big things. However, when I left home, I realized I knew nothing. I had little to no life experience and was dealing with the hard dealt trials of Life.
One of the main problems was that I was never taught to trust myself. I had more mental health issues on my plate than I knew about. When I was 19, I was then diagnosed with borderline personality disorder (BPD). I was always afraid, always anxious, and never good enough.
Growing up as an artist, drugs can become normalized as a form of art. Through trial and error, I soon realized that the world would continue to spin, even if I mess up every once in a while. Maybe it was my addict, ego-driven self, but I soon realized that one drug use was too much and a thousand wasn’t enough.
In 2019, I got sober from my cocaine use and started to rebuild myself from the ground up. A little over a year into sobriety, I have seen transformations like no other. After graduating in 2020, I moved back home because of the pandemic. I find now that Source, God, and whoever you believe in, will always plant miracles in life just before you give up.
The pandemic hit full force in the spring of 2020 and I truly did not see a future for myself. Depression had hit my life again in full force. I was new to sobriety and finding a job felt impossible. I felt a sense of hope when I got a job working at the front desk with Awakened Yoga. I owe a huge, huge ‘thank you' for the positive momentum of changes in my life to the studio.
This year, I joined the 40-day revolution which has since brought up all of the previously explained events from my childhood. This challenge also came at a place in my life where I felt vulnerable and in need of guidance.
I have been doing my best to follow each step; however — spoiler alert — I failed almost everyday. Just focusing on one breath is a great way to start. The first week, I set goals for myself. I promised myself on the first week that I would observe my habits without judgement. I realize now how much of my daily routine was self-sabotage. I wanted to take action immediately and had all these great ideas of what I would get from this program. I wanted to fix everything that I saw as wrong about myself but quickly realized it would be impossible.
The next train of thought I had was about my execution of this challenge. How do I go about getting my life back together? My natural tendency is to start big. I told myself I had to check everything off the to-do list before the day was over. Meditate twice a day, yoga, read, and any other set of goals unrelated to the program that I had assigned myself. The next day, I looked back at my to-do list and saw that I did only one of these things. In that moment, I had the realization that I wasn’t going to change—or become “perfect”—overnight. Whether I like it or not, I have to slowly build myself up to where I want to be - like a seasoned marathon runner.
Regardless, being aware has already shifted a change in my psyche.
Throughout this 40-day challenge, I begin to glow with confidence, inspiration, and strength in a way I haven’t in years. I was feeling the benefits of doing yoga on a regular basis. Dancing is easier and my body does not get tired throughout the day. My higher level of awareness has helped me not act on impulses when it came to old triggers. I didn’t handle everything perfectly, but I also didn’t go off the deep end. I’ve experienced a lot in the past and I truly believe I am better off now than I was before I started this journey. I feel very fortunate to have been able to re-identify my trauma as something that serves as a positive for me. The more I choose to perceive events in my life as negative, the more I suffer. I have slowly been allowing discipline and authority figures back into my life, understanding that the threat of trauma is gone and Life is a redesigned game in my control. I could not protect myself as a kid, given I did not have a voice in the matter. I imagine journeying on with this child in me—she is never forgotten.
I feel empowered by the adult I am now, knowing I get to make the decisions about my life that were out of my control for so long. I approach aspects of my life that were once beautifully tainted by trauma with the same hope that beauty can be restored in the now, in a new and better way. My 40 day revolution may look more like a 40 year revolution, but I am excited to grow and learn from my mistakes. Ultimately, mistakes are inevitable and winning Life is just the cherry on top.