Some people have epiphanies. Some people recognize the signs sent to them a little easier.
For me, the signs weren’t enough, nor the pit in my stomach; none of the warning signs were heeded. So, the need for change hit me like a freight train and happened all at once. The end of a dependent relationship, financial turmoil, bad career decisions—it all came to a brutal head.
When I was finally able to come up for air, I found myself at a yoga retreat in Central America, shaking, crying, and cradling myself in a ball on the floor in a room full of strangers. It wasn’t the bottom; I was still in free fall and desperately looking for anyone to cling to and tell me that it was all going to be OK. I was looking for any way to avoid spending time alone, having to face the thoughts in my head.
Every morning of that retreat, I waded waist deep into the ocean, tears running down my face, begging the Universe to send someone to love me. The emptiness felt all encompassing. To be alone with myself felt like a death sentence, even if for just a few minutes.
Over the next several months I ingratiated myself in the world of yoga: classes, teacher training, blogs, conferences. Still searching desperately for the answer to come to me in one glorious, life rendering moment—convinced that yoga and now the universe were obligated to bring me love, someone to take care of me, to fill the emptiness that was my ever-present companion.
After months of trying to squeeze my intended purpose from the yoga stone, I found myself turning away from it altogether. I was angry.
Look at how much time I had dedicated, how many days I had bowed my head to the mat showing gratitude and still, the universe hadn’t paid up. I was still alone, still scared. The pit in my stomach grew, I felt as if I would turn inside out from loneliness.
A few months after telling my yoga mat to go fuck itself and turning away from my practice altogether, I moved thousands of miles from the city I had always called home. I moved away from all of the people who told me “it will be alright” as I went through another breakdown. Away from all the comforts. Into isolation. To a city where I knew no one. Living alone for the first time. No safety net.
I even tried a few yoga classes again, but was frustrated when my body betrayed me, not able to bend itself into poses as easily after months of neglect. My ego once again bruised, I felt my relationship with yoga to be even more strained than ever.
But living alone was where I first started to hear myself and feel a connection to the things I had learned about meditation. I found myself able to find some peace in the quiet when life was strained. When I would break down and reach for the phone to make a long distance plea for comfort, I heard my own voice saying “it will be alright. It will be better than alright. You are fine. Breathe.”
It was in this solitary life that I began, perhaps for the very first time, to look at my naked body each morning, finding places I am growing to love more each day—parts of me I used to see as flaws or opportunities for rejection.
Now, it is my own voice that I hear saying, “I love you, breathe,” when the void feels ever so wide. And for the first time, those words don’t fill me with the fear of potential loss and the desperation to hold on for dear life.
I know that this is the love that I will never lose.
In a recent yoga class, when my stiffened body was unable to move fully into poses, it brought a smile to my face instead of my previous go to, “I hate my body. Why is this so hard for me? And only me?” I know that limitations are a part of life. My relationship with myself and with yoga are an everyday practice that will likely always be far from perfect, and none of us are without our imperfections and insecurities.
When I bowed my head to that dusty, neglected mat at the end of class, I realized that I am finally finding appreciation for the tough love that this practice has shown me.
Heather O’Hare is an aspiring writer living in Toronto, who in her spare time and during bouts of writer’s block, spends afternoons napping with the pug love of her life. She enjoys baking, hiking, yoga, you tube cat videos and her day job, working in Veterinary Medicine.
Like elephant yoga on Facebook.
Assistant Ed: Sara Crolick
Ed: Bryonie Wise