My Story: Healing from Anxiety & Panic Attacks

This is my story of healing my debilitating anxiety and panic attacks, insomnia, racing thoughts and occasional bouts of depression. 


When I was young I had a severe case of asthma. Throughout my childhood, I had many experiences (a house fire, bullies, car accidents, death of loved ones) that lead me to develop an anxiety problem. This anxiety caused my mind to race and also caused frustrating insomnia. Occasionally, I became hijacked by my nervous system and panic attacks or asthma attacks would leave me worried and afraid. It was an unsettling feeling, to lose control of my breath. More then once I found myself in the hospital with blue lips, face and fingers from hyperventilation and lack of oxygen. I also experienced heart palpitations that caused me to worry even more about what was happening to my body. I felt helpless. What I could do to prevent these types of attacks from coming on? I had no idea.

Many people know what anxiety feels like, the way it controls the mind, produces pain, aches or nausea, the way it can create a sense of disconnect between mind, body, spirit, and the world around us. Under these conditions, relaxation is often a challenge; experiencing a sense of peace can be nearly impossible. Once anxiety takes hold, it can manifest in a variety of ways—from panic and obsessive-compulsive behaviours to post traumatic stress, phobias, and generalized anxiety disorder. Today, over 18% of North Americans are affected with anxiety disorders. At the time, I felt isolated but I now know that I was not alone in this battle.

My journey with yoga began in 2003 when I fell completely head over heels in love at my very first class. I walked out of that room as if I was floating on a cloud, I had never felt such peace. I had the best sleep that night, the best sleep I’d had in years! I began to practice yoga daily because I loved the relaxed feeling it gave me as well as the sense of inner stillness and peace. The more I practiced the more I felt a much needed sense of balance in my life as well as emotional resilience. Finally I had found something that was relieving all of my anxiety symptoms as well as healing my asthma.  Over time I went from worrying every night as I tried to fall asleep to drifting off  into a peaceful sleep easily and care free. I noticed the effects of this ancient science pouring over into every aspect of my life. I knew I was going to be a lifelong student of yoga and meditation.

I studied under Randal Williams of the Kripalu Centre for Yoga and Health for my 200 hour training. In essence, the word Kripalu translates into ‘being compassionate’. Neither posture sequences nor instructions are standardized, so no two classes look alike. Because of the creative nature of Kripalu Yoga and being an art student myself, I found it was the perfect yoga teacher training for me.

I continued my yoga education, branching out into yoga nidra & integrative restoration, intensive meditation courses, energy medicine workshops, chakra intensives with Seane Corn & Anodea Judith, and studied my 500 hour training in yoga psychology under Ashely Turner and am currently enrolled in a 13 moon priestess mystery school.

Each class I guide includes not only asana (physical poses) but also pranayama (breathing techniques) and meditation proven to calm the nervous system. Bringing awareness to the physical sensations, emotions, and thoughts that arise throughout the practice create a ‘meditation in motion’ style of class.

Nothing is more fulfilling than spreading the incredible benefits I have found in yoga with others.  I was a person who struggled with debilitating anxiety. Today I am not. In the future, as life brings more challenges, I know that I now have the tools to get through it. It brings me joy to spread these wonderful tools into the community. I am grateful that I get to do this work. Thank you for reading my story. I hope to see you soon on the mat.

Ally Boothroyd

About the Author Ally

Ally Boothroyd is a yoga educator and meditation teacher with a passion for yoga nidra and the healing power of conscious rest. She is the founder of Sarovara Yoga, a yoga space and women's retreat centre in Ontario, Canada. A sanctuary on the water where she fosters local community and supports health, personal growth, emotional resiliency, authenticity, awareness, and awakening. Ally also leads Retreats and Yoga Teacher Trainings in Nosara, Costa Rica