Stress, Ice Pick Headaches, and other things I like to think I play off well.

I know, I haven’t written a post in a while. Truth is, I haven’t really felt like it. I’ve been…ya know…that thing that yoga instructors aren’t ever supposed to be–stressed. True story.

This past weekend, I got to see my family. They flew in from California to Atlanta because my little sister, Cass, had a volleyball tournament (the junior Olympics–yeah, she’s a badass). It was so incredibly good to see them. I have been missing them a lot more than I let on–usually, I play it off pretty well. But, this post is going to be full of things that I (like to think) play off pretty well, so get used to it. Here goes.

I guess I’ll just start you off with something that practically no one knows about me (only my family and boyfriend, and even to them, I don’t talk about it much). I suffer from ice pick headaches, a pretty rare and, for the most part, poorly researched disorder. This kind of headache is different from other kinds: it isn’t a dull ache or throbbing sensation, but an intense sharp pain (usually in my right temple) that feels like its name would suggest–having an ice pick stabbed into your head unexpectedly. Yep…really no other way to describe it. Thankfully, it only lasts about 45 seconds, and it’s sometimes accompanied by a burning sensation after the stabbing goes away. To be blunt–they really, really suck. The pain is so intense that I have to stop what I’m doing, clench my jaw, close my eyes and press into my temple where the headache is happening. I’ve been getting these for as long as I remember. Neurologists haven’t found an underlying cause of ice pick headaches, but I know, without doubt, what mine are from–stress.

Being a yoga instructor and practitioner comes along with certain stereotypes, and being stressed sure as hell ain’t one of them. But I always strive, in my classes and through this blog, to let everyone know that teaching yoga doesn’t mean I’m not just as f-ed up as the rest of the world. I am flawed. And if you ever go to a yoga class where the instructor just seems like he/she is just so perfect, so amazing, so calm all the time, so together–don’t let them fool you. It’s usually the ones who pretend to be perfect who are the most messed up. Yeah, I’m being judgmental. See? Flawed.

My stress recently has stemmed from being torn–between California and Savannah. I really love Savannah, my friends here, my dream job, my Alex, and the yoga community. I am living a lovely life. But a part of me is very, very homesick. I miss my family, my dogs, my home, rock climbing, being able to go outside and explore. I miss mountains (hills even), poppies, the way the Bay looks on a clear day, the smell of eucalyptus trees, rocks. I miss laughing with my sisters, talking with my Mama, going on afternoon hikes with my Dad before dinner. Savannah is beautiful and I love it here, but it’s not very conducive to the whole of who I am–a very adventurous person who wants to spend her life outside.

So, one night when I was feeling especially homesick and about to fall asleep, the question came up: should I go home?

And then, the stress started. A constant stream of weighing my options, trying to figure it all out. One minute I’d be set on going home, the next, I had decided I was going to stay here another year or two. Back and forth. Pros and cons. Yes or no. West or East.

Georgia or California.

This went on until just the other day while practicing Ashtanga. I can’t remember the last time I had an ah-ha! moment while I wasn’t on my yoga mat, covered in sweat and listening to only the sound of my breath. Actually, the last time I had one of these moments while I wasn’t doing yoga was when I was running–and if you’ve been following this blog you know I haven’t done that in a long, long time.

It was during savasana. I had done the primary series, or at least, the parts of it that I can do without my knees hurting (which, by the way, have felt a LOT better recently…I can do janu sirsana again!). So really, I had done the Georgie-style primary series. I was laying on my mat, breath was soft again, and as I started listening in, I literally started talking to myself in my head (glad I didn’t say anything out loud).

I heard myself say: George, you don’t have to choose. 

That’s all I said. But that was all I needed to hear. I remembered back to about a year ago, when I started this blog (yeah, I can’t believe it’s been that long either) and I was faced with the very stressful question of what the hell I was going to do with my life. And as soon as I let go of the worrying, the weighing of options, the having to decide, the stress–everything fell into place. I came here, I started teacher training. Best decision of my life, probably because I let it come organically.

As I came out of savasana, I felt lighter. I was smiling. I knew, and still know, that when I’m supposed to go home, it will happen. I don’t have to choose.

And then, when I was talking with my friend Meredith about all of this, she said something that I’ll probably tell myself for years to come: you’ll be okay no matter what you do. Isn’t she the best?

I find that many of the times when I am stressed it is because I feel like I need to control the situation–either by making a decision, somehow forcing the traffic to go faster, being sure that I get something done by a certain time. Letting go of this desire to control has been the greatest tool I’ve learned to reduce stress and anxiety. Yoga taught me how to do this, how to let go.

Stress is, in my opinion, the most unhealthy thing we can have in our bodies (obviously, I mean come on, I feel I’m being stabbed with a frickin’ ice pick every time I’m stressed out). And yes, I still get stressed and anxious sometimes, but yoga has helped me understand why, and just that understanding helps it reduce . Now when I’m stressed I can actually use it as a tool for self-discovery, a way to learn something about myself that I didn’t know before.

So for me, I learned that when I am faced with a choice, and that if I don’t know the answer within two seconds, I get stressed. Maybe your stress comes from something else. It’s important to know what that something is.

Stop fighting yourself. Every answer you need is coming, is some form or another. Just listen.


4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Kendall
    Jul 11, 2011 @ 12:45:37

    Great post Georgie! I can so relate to it all… the stress, the yoga teacher pedestal, and especially the homesickness. All the way to work this morning I listened to bluegrass music while tears streamed down my face, missing my family and the mountains of east Tennessee (like you said, even a hill would be nice) so much that I think I may have experienced an ice-pick HEART ache. At least once a day, I think about the high desert of AZ and southern CO and wonder how and why the hell I am choosing to survive without true blue skies and fresh air. I fantasize about snow and real mountains in Montana, fast-running creeks and ROCKS! And I know someday when I leave Savannah I’ll miss the beach, the marsh, and the Spanish moss just the same. A little piece of my heart lives in every place I have lived. It leaves me feeling fragmented, many days. Like I am strewn across the U.S. in pieces, feeling very incomplete. And still, I am always ok no matter what happens- just like your friend said. For me just realizing that gives me this deep sense of creative power. Every moment, every breath, I choose my life, I CHOOSE to be here and rock my world- be it all happy and groovy or all dark and ugly. I choose all of it, good and bad, an act of creation. And that choice pulls every piece of me right back to here, now. Thanks for reminding me, and thanks for rockin the Savannah scene for now!


    • Georgie Abel
      Jul 11, 2011 @ 13:48:52

      Aww Kendall, your comment brought me to tears. Ever since you told me about where you’re from and your passion for climbing, I would think…if kendall can be away from rocks and do this here, so can I. Just knowing that someone else in this city feels the same way I do helps a lot. Thank you. I was planning on coming to your class at SPY on Wednesday morning. You do teach that class, right? Thanks again for your kind comment. I think of you often Kendall, and I’ve been having students tell me that I remind them of you…pretty much the best compliment I’ve ever gotten! Have a good week.


  2. Vic
    Jul 16, 2011 @ 11:41:41

    Georgie just getting into Yoga and the benefits it can give to one, by the means of stress relief.Have been a big fan of your Dad for a long time and I have learned a bunch of tennis knowledge from him.Well now it’s your turn I’m going to lean on you to help me learn stress relief in my daily life,tennis helps a great deal ,but I think one is always looking for a bit more of an advantage.So I’ll be reading all your past blogs and trying to start up a Yoga regimen of my own,I hope that your experiences will be a help to me .Can’t wait to get started.


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