I am grieving over a lost relationship.
The details aren’t important. It’s not like a lover left me or someone died.
Just a not-so-sudden break-up of two grown woman friends where a million cups of coffee were consumed, spleens busted while laughing, tears shed, advise given, hugs given when advise wouldn’t cut it, and an unspoken promise that our friendship was something we could count on.
Plus we were yoga Besties and took classes, workshops, and even retreats together. But for reasons too tangled and beyond my control, we didn’t work out. For a while I looked inside to see how I could have prevented the breakup. But in the end the other person wanted out and there was nothing I could do.
I keep telling myself I’m over her. Yep I gotta move on. Get back into the world of living instead of hanging out on my own personal page of self-pity. I convinced myself I was doing a pretty decent job until I got on my yoga mat and my grief revealed itself like an abandoned baby. I felt like I might break or die. My breath got caught in my sternum. Really.
When I’m on my yoga mat, I come up against myself and no other.
I feel sorrow, disappointment, rejection, betrayal and bitterness swimming in every bone, muscle and cell of my body. They join together to create a set of hungry teeth that clamp down and won’t let go. So I have refused to go there. For months my yoga mat has remained rolled up in its faithful corner.
I am self-aware enough to know that whether I practice yoga or not, my loss will remain lurking underneath until I fully deal with it. When I am not practicing yoga, I sometimes feel the pain rise up like vomit and then I do something—anything—to make it go away. Eat a cookie, feed the dog, pour a glass of chilled white wine, check my email, put a load of laundry in the washer, post a status on Facebook. Anything. I refuse to dwell in my difficult feelings and this has it’s advantages, like functioning. But secretly I wonder if my choice to move on from my pain denies something both necessary and precious.
Right now yoga hurts. It feels like yoga is breaking my heart. But it’s not the yoga that is doing the breaking. It is the loss and fragility that goes along with living. No one can escape it. Not even a yogi. No one is above breaking. We all break once in a while.
We are not alone and it helps to remember that all beings experience suffering.
Our broken hearts, pained psyches, forgotten dreams, and disappointing relationships are pathways to healing. Instead of fleeing or living in fear from our brokenness, we can flip the beast on its back and embrace its healing capacity.
Our suffering links us with our own sacred journey. The one we were meant to take and heal from. Each one of us has to walk our own path one step at a time with deliberation and compassion. When we do, we not only heal ourselves but make it easier for others to walk their own healing roadway.
Knowing what I know about healing and being a yogi who has strayed far from her practice, I decided it was time to get back on my yoga mat even if rejection and loss tumble down and bury me.
When I’m struggling with yoga, I call upon the five basic yoga principles that I learned during my Kripalu Yoga Teacher Training over a decade ago:
These words become my mantra no matter how difficult it is to stay with the sensations in the poses. If I practice yoga upholding these five ways of being, I open up to the whole experience of what is happening in the moment whether it’s tight hips, a set jaw, locked shoulders, shallow breath, sadness, anger, deadened aliveness or even an overwhelming sense of helplessness. A whole underbelly of sensations and feelings show up and threaten to take over and shut me down. If I let them. But following the five yoga principles make the difficulty I come up against while I hold the poses more merciful.
My upper and lower body lifted into boat pose and I observed that I was tired. Tired of the rejection I had been carrying. After two breaths, I wanted to release my chest, arms and legs back to the floor. They were no longer used to the effort and it wouldn’t have shocked me if each limb weighed a thousand pounds.
“Stay,” I said to myself.
So I did.
“Don’t bail,” I said to myself.
I was both lost and found.
When I finally did let the boat pose go and my fatigued body collapsed to the floor, it was if a small and wild creature had been set free.
A few hours later, I sat on a high shiny chrome chair at the MAC make-up counter in the mall. The make-up artist, whose hips holstered a black apron with a dozen different sized make-up brushes sticking out of multiple pockets, showed me how to apply color to my face in the most flattering way and something about her reminded me of my ex Bestie.
The stranger, who gently brushed soft peach powder across my cheeks, resembled a Kardashian with dark kohl-lined eyes and a thick application of pink on her lips. She was slightly bad ass in her black woolen mini skirt and high heeled shoe boots. The definition of her calves were enviable. She told me that she has never done yoga but regularly lifted weights.
Like my ex best friend, she was both strong and beautiful.
In that moment I wanted to be like the make-up girl but like me too. As she told me to glance up and waved the mascara wand under my eyelashes, I was thankful for being a female. I can’t explain why but as this stranger delicately brushed purple shadow on my closed eyelids, I felt unconditional gratitude for my ex best friend and remembered how much I had loved her especially when she was lost in deep concentration like the make-up girl was now.
It took almost a half hour to complete me. Her face was so close to mine while she worked that her breath sometimes tickled my nose. She deliberated over which brushes and colors to use. In the end the results were spectacular. When I looked at my reflection in the mirror, I saw a strong and beautiful woman looking back. With or without the make-up, the strong and beautiful woman was there the whole time.
One of my yoga teachers, Ana Forrest, famous in the yoga world like a rock star, says real strength is not about physical ability.
True strength is our ability to move through and process difficult situations.
And may I add that there is nothing un-yogic about walking the healing path of difficulty with spunky red lip gloss shining on your lips.
Editor: Lynn Hasselberger