June 28, 2014

How Yoga Cracked Me Open. ~ Banu Sekendur

Photo: Peter Kaminski via Flickr

It was more than the “Thanks for lessons, better luck with your next partner” kind of break up.

So much had happened.

Sharp words were exchanged, painful memories were created and the dream of us together had shattered into a thousand pieces. Three months later, I was picking up piece #287. I felt emotionally congested. I was attending summer festivals, writing letters and burning them, loving on my dog, meditating, crying, volunteering, dancing in my living room, praying and art journaling.

None of that helped me process the pain completely and move past it. I knew that I had to do something different.

I asked for help from the Universe. Then I waited for something to catch my attention. The answer came in my mailbox a few days later in the form of a promotional email for discounted Bikram Yoga sessions. Without hesitation, I clicked on “Buy” and looed up the exact location of the yoga studio. Of course, it happened to be only four miles away from my apartment—I had probably driven by it 100 times.

Bikram yoga is physically challenging initially, especially since I hadn’t been practicing yoga at all. I was already feeling emotionally, mentally and physically out of shape. To my surprise, except for taking a few short breaks here and there, I was able to follow the teacher and complete the first class. I considered my first Bikram yoga session as a success and went again the following day.

If anyone had told me what was going to happen next, I would not have believed them.

There I was, ambitiously pushing my body beyond its limits when, maybe underestimating the intensity of the practice a little, I fell on my knees about 50 minutes in. The room felt hotter than it did in the previous session—my knees were weak and my heart was pounding twice as hard.

A wave of grief hit me like a tsunami.

The tears came from somewhere deep within my soul, somewhere I wasn’t used to visiting very often, demanding to be heard. And they had picked a very inconvenient time and place to emerge.

I started crying uncontrollably. I couldn’t even care about the fact that I might be ruining the yoga class for others.

I just could not stop.

I curled up in a fetal position and kept crying on the yoga mat. Within about five minutes, the teacher quietly sat next to me and asked me if I was okay. She was watching me become unzipped in front of 20 strangers and treated it as if I just had a headache. That helped.

I tried to utter “I’m okay. Thank you.” All I could do was nod. I had lost track of time but according to my estimation, I had been crying non-stop for over 30 minutes. When the class was done and people were rolling up their yoga mats to hit the showers, I barely found any energy left in me to get up. I gathered up all the remnants of my composure and strength and dragged myself to the dressing room.

By then, I had started feeling self-conscious about disturbing people and overwhelming them with my grief.

I couldn’t make eye contact with anyone in the dressing room. A middle-aged woman approached me and said, “I had a similar experience four years ago. It was a tough one. Keep coming back. It gets better each time”.

Again, I nodded in silence.

Despite the shame I felt in the dressing room, I also felt emotionally held by these people—as if I was expressing their grief, as well as my own. My tears were also theirs. I was absolutely shocked by the deep compassion I felt from them.

Maybe, the reason why I had found my way to the yoga studio was because they needed to be a witness to the unbuttoning of my heart as much as I needed them to hold space for me.

It was all perfect. It humbled me.

I know that I owe my healing progress in the following months to yoga. I learned that, when all else fails, I can turn to my body for answers and healing. There is a lot of research out there about how emotions are held in the body and how the body keeps cellular memory of every experience we have had that has a strong emotion attached to.

Reading this research is one thing, experiencing it firsthand is another.

I cried again in the next and the following session. But it wasn’t like the first time. They were big waves that didn’t last long. I could surf my way through them with the help of my miraculous body.

After the next three sessions, the crying and sobbing stopped. I was able to focus more on the practice and literally felt emotional strength build up in me as I gently pushed my body to stay in the yoga poses.

As I found new levels of endurance and flexibility in my body, my emotional climate started to adjust accordingly.

At the end of one month, I was able to get back to my somewhat “normal” social life. When a new wave of grief or heartache hit me, I was able to move into the emotion and let it flow through me much more easily. I no longer felt emotionally blocked.

When we have unfinished business in our life, or painful experiences that we have not completely processed, we can consider incorporating our body as part of our healing practice. Bikram yoga did the trick for me; kickboxing might do it for others.

Something happens when we allow the body to stretch and move in different ways than it is used to. When we push our body beyond its current limits, other aspects of our life seem to rise up to the occasion and get ready for an upgrade.

Our body will show us the way.


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Apprentice Editor: Kim Haas / Editor: Renée Picard

Photo: Peter Kaminski via Flickr



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