February 3, 2012

Question of the Day: Does Practicing Yoga Cause Divorce? ~ Chrys Kub

 How are you?  No, how are you really?

I am now a single woman, soon to be divorced after 19 years of marriage, and yes, I do believe yoga was partly to blame for my divorce.  Not because I had an “affair” with my instructor, but because I had an epiphany in my life.  And I am not the only one.

I would love to take a survey to see just how many women who started practicing yoga seriously, in their late 30’s and into their 40’s, have since gotten divorced.  Now I don’t mean just practicing yoga a few times a week in your local hot studio, trying to get a better body.  I am speaking of those women who embarked on an introspective journey, sparked by the spiritual practices of yoga.  . I am willing to bet that number is at least 80%.  Really?  Yes, really.   Out of 10 of my closest girlfriends through yoga, 8 of them have gotten divorced since they started practicing seriously.  I know that can’t be an isolated statistic…or is it?

Soccer Mom Wakes Up!

I think what happens is those women, especially suburbanized women who have gotten stuck on the treadmill of being a super mom, trudging through their daily lives; begin to rediscover their old selves through yoga.  It’s like that old cliché about not looking outside yourself to find out who you are, because you are already that which you want to be inside, you just didn’t realize it. Living the western lifestyle, you tend to look outward for meaning.  You look to your neighbors to define success.  Do I have a nice car and home like the Jones’?   Is my job as prestigious as the Smith’s?  Are my kids involved in all the appropriate  sports and dang it, they better be on the All Star Team!!  But those external measures have nothing to do with reality, or you.

For me, the big epiphany came at a cookout one cold October evening after I had been studying yoga for a few years.  The guys (husbands) were all outside by the bonfire talking about manly things and the women were inside talking about, well, carpools and house décor.  I kept trying to steer the conversation to deeper topics like “what do you think about the way you feel when your husband hasn’t hugged you in a year”, or “have you ever thought that some religions may be based on deceptions?” But inevitably I just got a quizzical look and the conversation returned back to mundane daily worries and trivialities.

I had just gotten back from a trip teaching a yoga teacher training with several of my long time yoga friends.  We had delved into the philosophy of life together while studying yoga.  We had discussed our core beliefs, morals and values.  We had explored the how and whys of our lives and many of us discovered that we had disconnected to what was most precious to us, and had lost our passion for life.  We were beginning to realize that the lives we were living were not an expression of who we were inside.   Now I am not saying there is anything wrong about living in suburbia, raising morally responsible children and making a good living.  What I am saying is if you are doing that, are you really connected to what you are doing?  And is your partner connected to you? Is there passion in your life?  And if not, what the hell are you doing?

What does this have to do with divorce?  Well, as women begin this process of rediscovering themselves, many times the husbands do not come along for the ride.  They just sit idly by, saying we are “crazy” and too into that “yoga stuff”.  Meanwhile, their wives are slipping away, and probably never coming back.

I found out I was not alone in my experience.

One of my favorite books is Broken Open by Elizabeth Lesser.  During my transition out of being a married woman moving away from “settling” for what society tells us is supposed to make us “happy”, this book was a life line.  In Broken Open,Elizabeth speaks of reading the words of Chogyam Trungpa and finding that these words resonated with her at the deepest level.

 “You feel sad and lonely and perhaps romantic at the same time.  That is the first tip of fearlessness, and the first sign of real warrior ship.”

~ Chogyam Trungpa

Elizabeth goes on to ask this question, the question that literally changed my life:

 “Had I been repressing the very parts of myself that could liberate me?…I took my first steps beyond the room of trying to be someone I wasn’t.”

And isn’t that what the practice of yoga does for us?  It helps us to tune into being who we really are.  We begin tuning into following our heart and our passion. And doing that is scary.  We have to tap into fearlessness to make that change toward authenticity in our lives.. And the beauty of it is, many times, you are accompanied by women just like yourself, in the same boat.  In fact, just today, one of my friends said the exact same thing to me as she was discussing having to move one more time with her two daughters. ”I am in the same boat you were in a year ago, thanks for understanding.”

This process calls us to stop trying to row upstream against the current. Through this process of turning the boat around, we encounter turbulence in the form of disapproving family and friends.  But the good news is that once the boat is turned around and we are flowing downstream, everything becomes easier and we can now flow along with the current and watch where it takes us.

I wish with all my heart that my husband had followed me, had taken the time to find his passion and explore how we could do this together, but that just didn’t happen.  And in rediscovering myself I remembered that I am spontaneous, that I enjoy being with friends who are genuine and open, that I love to dance and ride my bike down the beach, and will travel anywhere to hear the right band (I saw Michael Franti perform in 6 different venues in 2010).

The thing is I truly believe that some people are meant to be in our lives for just a season, to teach us what we need to know and for us to teach them.  Then when that time is over, we move on.  And I believe the practice of yoga is a tool which helps us to see that more clearly, and if it is time to move on, we now have the courage to do so..

So my question to you is this…how many of the women out there reading elephant journal, have had a relationship end as a consequence of their self discovery through yoga?  And why is this happening?  I think the secret is coming out.  Women are not happy with the status quo, we need to be mothers and wives and career women, yes, but we also need to express our individuality as strong, powerful women.

To express our heart’s desire and follow our passions.

To be loved fully and irreverently.

To open our hearts to the possibilities of our lives

To live without fear of the unknown

And if the situation calls for it, to end our marriage and move on

My daughter turned 18 this week, and I wrote down for her my favorite quote.  I am not sure she understands it now, but am sure in the future it will become clearer to her.

“And the time came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”

~ Anais Nin


Photo credit: Yoga Studio

So, am I right?  Let me hear from you.

Chrys has been practicing and teaching yoga since 2000.  She is a physical therapist, yoga therapist, mom, and Mentor teaching Master Intensives in Yaapana Yoga with LeeannCareyYoga.  She is also the creator of FitYogaTherapy.  Visit her website for more information.
This article was prepared by Aminda Courtwright, Assistant Yoga Editor.
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