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May 3, 2014

Managing Change in Relationships: A Yogi Toolkit. ~ Lizzie Guerra

Backbend Yoga

Heraclitus cut right to the core of the human experience when he said, “Change is the only constant.”

Everything, including our lives, is fleeting. Our souls roam this earth, for what, in the grand perspective of the Universe, is quicker than the blink of an eye. And yet, while on this brief journey, we are blessed with a series of breaths to take, people to meet, memories to create and lessons to learn.

From this perspective, life is a beautiful and joyous gift. Reminding ourselves of this gift, however, is a continual practice, as we can easily find ourselves functioning within the comforts of our daily lives, and at the center of our own ego-centric universe.

What happens, however, when our Universe expands faster than we are ready? When the accelerating speed of the cosmos, disrupts our comfortable lives and throws us an unexpected curveball?

Some of life’s fastest curveballs are the ones that come in the form of changing relationships. Whether it is a breakup with a partner or the loss of a friend or family member, physically or emotionally, relationship change can rock us so hard we feel that we’ve been flung out into the cold, dark Universe as naked and vulnerable as the day we were born.

How we handle ourselves in the face of momentous relationship changes provides us with vital information about our ego. Everyone has an ego. It is the watch dog of our history, the protector of our identity, and when it is challenged, we hear and feel its presence within.

The ego loves to throw itself a loud pity party and invite guests over watch a black and white film reel of hurt and betrayal on our inner big screen T.V.

The ego also has a tendency to seek solace in destructive actions like self-deprecation, drinking, taking drugs, overeating and meaningless sexual encounters. Without realizing what it is doing, the ego betrays the person it was trying so hard to protect, usually more so than the situation that triggered its reaction in the first place.

Here’s the thing, though, the ego does not realize itself, and this is why it is so easy to let it spiral out of control. The good news, however, is that although we all have an ego, we are not our ego.

Now I know what you’re thinking. If we’re not our ego—not our identities nor the sum of our experiences, both good and bad—what are we?

We are awareness.

We are the observer or the ego, the container of the ego, but not the ego itself.

With this knowledge, we are able to develop tools develop and strengthen our awareness so that we can keep our protective ego in check.

We’ve all had our egos hurt before by someone we love and care about. Personally, this has happened to me numerous times, and it wasn’t until I began to practice yoga and meditation that I recognized how defensive and destructive my ego actually was.

And while one does not necessarily need to practice yoga to be aware, it has certainly been an incredibly helpful tool in my awareness kit. I have developed a combination of mindful practices and yoga poses to help me deal with relationship change. They have helped me through some of my most vulnerable moments, where my ego would likely have taken over had I not been waiting for it ready and aware.

So what do I do when I’m feeling my ego forcefully surface in my feelings, thoughts and actions? I Keep C.A.L.M and practice yoga.

C is for cry. Release the stored emotions in the form of hot, salty tears. Rinse your soul out, and surrender to your tender and bruised ego. Cry so hard you can’t cry any more. Get it all out. During the cry, listen patiently to your ego and acknowledge what it is saying to you.

Often times what you will hear from your ego is the complete contrary to what your heart knows and believes. If your ego is causing jealousy or hatred or deep sadness, you must unravel those threads, because they go deeper than the trigger itself. They often go back into our childhoods, and even further, into our karmic past. By tapping into the root causes of our emotions during a good cry, we are able to name them more easily when they come up again in a different situation.

The emotional connection we create with ourselves during a heartfelt sob, provides us with a potent tool for keeping our ego at bay. Using the physical practice of yoga as another valuable tool for managing change, we can practice certain poses and make the most of their various benefits. The physical yogic equivalent of a good cry are twisting poses. The act of wringing out your spine and your organs equates with the emotional wringing out of the soul that we experience when we release our tears.

Ardha Matsyendrasana (half twist pose) can be used to wring out anger, and it will greatly aid those who are harboring feelings of betrayal or self-deprecation. Wring yourself out like a sponge, clarify yourself of toxins and prepare your body to take the next step.

A is for accept your present reality, whatever it is. If your present reality is nothing but tears and anger, hey, that’s cool! If you’re present reality is loneliness tinged with ambivalence, also cool.

The entire spectrum of emotion, including but not limited to relief, sadness, anger, jealousy, joy and love may be experienced when our relationships change course. We must remain present and observe our ego’s thoughts and actions. Our ego does not live in the present moment. It lives in the past and the future. It replays past events and dreams up future actions. Therefore, we can tame our ego by bringing our awareness to the present moment.

A few deep, conscious breaths is all you need to check yourself before you wreck yourself. As you accept your present reality, settle into virabhadrasana II (warrior II pose). This pose evokes stability, something we all naturally crave in moments of change and vulnerability. In warrior two, our base is strong and still, and we stand tall and proud. As one arm reaches valiantly into the future and the other heroically into the past, the core of our being, and our heart, remain firmly rooted in the present moment; we are balanced, peaceful and prepared to face change like a warrior.

L is for learn. Each person we come into contact with has a lesson to teach us. Truly, it is up to each and every one of us to discover the lessons on our own, and often times our teachers are not even aware that they play such fundamental roles in shaping our human experience.

For me personally, I’ve learned some incredibly valuable information about my ego in the wake of breakups. I’ve learned that in the absence of a partner, especially in the immediate absence, I tend to navigate between extremes, with my ego struggling to mutiny against the captain of the helm—my awareness.

My ego is needy, my awareness is non-attached. My ego is fearful, my awareness in loving and compassionate. When I realized that I was a being of extremes, and could see both the shadow and light within, I began to know and accept myself better. By listening to and honoring the lessons that my ego was teaching me, I was able to grow and flourish, especially during some of the most trying relationship changes.

Compassionate backbends are the perfect way to learn from ourselves. Not only do they open the heart, but they trigger our intuition and demand that we listen to our own bodies. The ego will often rear its head when we practice backbends. It will come up in the form of resistance, and it is up to us to heed this subtle reminder to back down from our egos and do only as we are able!

By choosing a backbend that fits our practice in that very moment, we are able to truly honor where we are on that specific day. When we honor ourselves, we not only learn about the flexibility of our personal boundaries, but we also cultivate ego-awareness and facilitate self-growth. I’m a fan of setu bandha sarvangasana (bridge pose), but choose what feels right for you!

M is for move forward. This is the last and final step, because it is the amalgamation of the preceding steps. Once we have released our emotions, we become more capable of accepting our present reality. From our present reality we honor the lessons we’ve learned and show ourselves compassion. If we’ve made it this far, we have sat with ourselves and practiced ego-awareness thoroughly. Once our ego has been subdued and we are coming from a place of love, we can take action. Be supremely honest with yourself, and ask your divine intuition what moving forward looks like to you? Always come from a place of love.

When you’re ready send that text message, make that phone call or have that cup of coffee with your ex-partner, family member or friend you will be grounded and ready to embrace whatever the change holds. If it is unlikely for you to seek change through a conversation, or, perhaps, you’re not ready for contact just yet, that is perfectly fine. Honor where you’re at. No matter what place you come from, as long as it is from your heart’s awareness, you are laying the ground work to move forward in your own way.

Be true to yourself, live your experience and remember, you are where you are, and this experience is for the benefit of your higher learning. Sukhasana (seated cross-legged pose), though often thought of as one of the most gentle of the physical postures, sukhasa is a very rigorous and incredibly challenging mental pose. What this asana evokes is action from a place of deep stillness. It is the unification of yin and yang.

From this place of relaxation, we are able cultivate trust and tap into our intuition. When we can quiet the mind, we are able to connect with our higher awareness. This awareness, allows us to calmly consider our options, as well as rationalize the next steps from a place of awareness, love, courage and compassion.

Overall, the key to managing change is awareness of the ego. As we silently observe our emotions, thoughts and actions, we equip ourselves with a tool box to handle the disruptive and uncomfortable changes we experience in our relationships.

By releasing and monitoring our emotions, we can accept where we’re presently at in our healing process. Then, from a place deep in our tender hearts, we can move forward and open ourselves up for new opportunities to learn and grow.

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Apprentice Editor: Jessica Sandhu / Editor: Renée Picard

Photo: Pixoto

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Nyla May 7, 2014 3:10pm

Lizzie, thank you so very much for this "MUCH NEEDED" article. You have no idea how much I needed to read this article and how much it has touch my soul. Thank you for presenting it so beautifully. Much love to you ~ Namaste <3

teresaglady May 4, 2014 1:48pm

Great read and so true! Thank you!!!

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Lizzie Guerra

Lizzie Guerra is a spiritual warrior who hails from the beautiful state of Vermont. In her free time enjoys dancing to dirty hip hop beats, practicing yoga, globe trotting, walking labyrinths, drinking craft beer, going for epic hikes and weaving stories into rich and color tapestries, like the XyZ tapestry she practices yoga on. Check out her blog, N-om-ad.