The accidental yogi
Yoga for the heart
Earlier this year, I went through a very difficult break-up. And although I’d been letting my practice slip (yes, again!) and was coming to class on a less than regular basis, my very first thought the second my former boyfriend walked out of my life was: I need to go to yoga.
The thought was almost overwhelming – in a way, it even dominated my grief. Just get up in the morning and practice. Just get yourself dressed and on the mat and everything else will follow. So said my brain, which must have been paying attention to all those wonderful little supportive things our teacher tells us in class. It felt like all my previous attempts at trying to maintain a regular practice had led to this point. I knew – like, I really, really felt it inside me – that yoga had the power to heal.
And so, through sniffles and tears, through moments of overwhelm, confusion and intense mental anguish, through actual real-life heartache, I went to class. Every damn day. While I couldn’t control much of what was going on in my regular life or the thoughts that were exploding out of my brain (I’m sure most people can relate!), there were 90 minutes on the mat where I had something to do. I had somewhere to be. And in that safe space, in the Hot Yoga Ibiza studio, I began to heal.
In the beginning, maybe I used yoga as a substitute for a partner – I was smug as I’d get ready to go to the studio each day, thinking there was no one holding me back or demanding my time be sent elsewhere. It was all about me. As I’d suck in an Ujjuayi breath, I’d envision myself inhaling positivity. Kumbhaka – I’d hold it and try to feel peace. And as I’d breathe out that same breath, I’d imagine all the negativity I was holding onto coming out of my body. Thoughts and feelings would come rushing over me and I’d have to fight to maintain my asana but I’d get through it. But then each and every time I found myself in Savasana, the tears would come.
WHAT? I thought to myself. This is so NOT me. I am strong – well, in the very least I can wait until I’m outside of the yoga studio and in the car to start weeping! And it happened again, and again, and again. Not dramatic sobbing mind you, just a sniffle and the odd tear rolling down my cheek – the kind you can easily mask since everyone else is lying down with their eyes closed but the kind you know your teacher has quietly observed without judgement. Sometimes I wondered whether they might be tears of happiness – for myself, for getting through the class, for giving my best, for showing up – and other times I’d know they were tears of sadness. Of disappointment, of anger, of rage, of betrayal. Better out than in, I suppose.
I started to feel myself getting into a rhythm. I started to feel my strength building. I began to get excited to get out of bed and go to the studio – instead of being a substitute boyfriend, it became vital routine. I was vigilant, this was my time – I couldn’t let anyone break the routine. I felt like the minute I fell out of it, the sadness (which was dissipating – as they say, time heals) would come back. I was doing yoga not only for my mind, my body and soul, but for my heart. Whatever gets you on the mat, right?
After a few months – I felt better. I didn’t have to force anything. I started to forget about positivity and negativity and didn’t have to work to block bad thoughts from entering my mind in the middle of a triangle. My head was clear. While the pain was still fresh, I very much felt more like ‘myself’ than I had in years – yoga was starting to give me realisations about myself and my identity. Yoga was giving me inner peace and restoring my connection to my self – something that I didn’t realise I had lost, until it found me again.
And then – here’s where the story takes a turn – my ego jumped into the equation. ‘You’re looking good,’ it would tell me as I looked at myself in the mirror. ‘You’re losing weight, you’re getting strong, your skin is glowing, you’re nailing it.’ Throw a fairly amateur headstand (against a wall) and a few pairs of designer yoga pants into the mix and all of a sudden I thought I was Queen Yogi of the Yogis. I thought I was healed. I didn’t need to practice every day any more. I had gotten what I needed from the practice (and as I write these words now I cringe, knowing you will NEVER get what you need – that’s why it’s called a practice, it’s NEVER done!) and I could go back to my life and get on with living.
And – as readers of this blog will know I have a bad habit of doing – I let my practice slide. AGAIN. Until it slipped right through my fingers and I stopped practicing for a couple of months. I did a few sun salutations at home and an online meditation here and there, but I was not by any means practicing. After all – who needed it? I was healed. And I was busy, you know?
But then on a regular weekday, as I was hitting the snooze button yet again (nama-stay in bed and all that) and as I was scrolling through social media before I’d even gotten out of bed and really woken up, I stumbled onto some unexpected news that sent my heart cascading back into that dark, dark place. Turns out, I wasn’t quite as strong or as healed as I thought. And yet again, my very first thought was: I need to go to yoga. (Swiftly followed by: YOU IDIOT! Why did you ever stop going to yoga?’)
I know there’s no point in having regrets and no point in dwelling in the past. What’s done is done and I can only move forward and keep practicing now. But still, I berate myself for giving up on my practice when I should have known better. If I hadn’t thrown in the non-stick yoga towel, I would have been prepared to cope with anything. Shoulda, woulda, coulda…
I almost feel like I’m some kind of reverse yoga addict – just when I get to the point that it starts to feel transformative, I let my ego take over and tell me I don’t need it. But know I do need it. In fact, I want it. Now, with the benefit of hindsight and also knowing the difference between how I feel when I practice daily and how I feel when I don’t practice at all, I am ready to start again, humbly back at square (or triangle) one. But the most beautiful thing about yoga is – it’s always been there for me. And it’s never going away. Even when I turned my back on it, it was waiting in the wings for the day I was ready to return. And now THAT is something I shall be eternally grateful for.