September 13, 2014

How Yoga Nidra Healed my Broken Heart. ~ Kelly Russell

woman in field

The walls of the room were made of glass.

The Yogi was small and blonde.

She bowed gently with her hands soft as praying.

You can put your mat down anywhere you’d like, she said.

Sunlight gathered on the hardwood in a welcome pool on the right side of her studio. I selected a spot and laid down in Savasana. I tried to still my thoughts, but they escaped in small droplets from the corners of my eyes. I squeezed my eyes closed tightly.

It’s okay, she said.

Whatever you feel. It’s safe here.

She was at my side holding a blanket.

Can I put this on you?

She asked. Sometimes people get cold during?

I nodded unable to speak. She laid a blanket across my body.

I dislike being cold, I finally choked out in a whisper. It was all I could manage.

She simply nodded.

I wasn’t sure what to expect the first time I did Yoga Nidra. At best, I hoped for a respite from the overwhelming feelings of loss and confusion that I was burdened with.

I had recently broken up with the first man I had ever loved. It had been a toxic relationship. Our last interaction involved him spitting on me and throwing garbage at me as I tried to exit his car.

He was angry at my refusal to give him oral sex in a parking lot. This was further exacerbated by the fact that I went to his house the following morning intent on apologizing. Things only deteriorated after that. I felt shamed by his inability to forgive me for what I perceived, at the time, to be all my fault. I loved him. I wasn’t good enough.

Let your body sink into the floor, she said.

Everything is okay. Nowhere to go. Nothing to do. Simply listen to your body.

Everything was decidedly not okay, but I decided to trust this small blonde woman. I listened to her voice. I relaxed my body against my mat. I felt my bones soften. We began like that.

The most vivid image I remember from this session was the vision of a girl lying in a field. It was cold and dark. There were trees with branches gnarled like arthritic fists. They swayed and made the sound of aching. The girl had brown curly hair, and hazel eyes. She had a smattering of freckles on her cheeks. At a distance, she reminded me of someone.

I walked closer.

She wore a red dress. It was torn at the exact space that her heart would be, and as I looked down all I could see was a vast emptiness. I leaned in close, curious, wanting to comfort her. And, suddenly a flock of blackbirds rose from the hole. They were shiny and fierce. They had an air of malignancy. They circled above us, their angry beaks squawking.

I gathered the small girl to my chest and I took off running. But, as I moved through the trees, I looked down. My hands were empty and bleeding.

Later, the Yogi would tell me about the way my body became rigid, my legs, my arms, my fingers curled in tights fists. My teeth clenched. I was barely aware of this. I was, at the time, completely disconnected.

Each week, I returned. Sometimes I would cry my whole way to the session. Sometimes, I would cry after. Always, there was a vision. My brain was sending messages in its gentle attempt to realign itself to my dispossessed body. Many of these images were dark and foreboding. They caused knots of tension that prickled like goosebumps against my skin.

I learned to relax into them. I learned to mediate with my breath. I learned to align myself with the pain, instead of fighting against it.

And, slowly, as I allowed the images to guide me and as I settled deeper into my breath, I felt the profound opening in my heart-space. Slowly, I began to reclaim possession of the things I had given away in the relationship, my elbows, my knees, my ears, my chin, my eyes, my breasts, the warm wet space between my generous thighs, my trust, my faith, my confidence.

All these things began to reemerge as pertinent and knowable. By allowing my body to hurt, in this space, and to explore that hurt without fear or judgement, I learned about the depths of my own indestructibility.

Recently, I lost a friend and a lover. He mattered a great deal to me. I wasn’t that significant to him. He made the decision that he never wanted to speak to me again. He apologized for hurting me, and then he simply vanished. I was left with an overwhelming feeling of sadness. Even surrounded by people who love me, I felt lonely. This loneliness and rejection became a trigger. It reminded me of being abandoned, years prior, by my first lover. But, this time, I was not at risk of losing myself.

I went to see the small, blonde Yogi. She welcomed me with outstretched arms.
On a purple mat, in a pool of sunlight, against the shiny hardwoods, the blackbirds returned in an angry flock. They circled my curly brown hair like a destructive halo. I stood in the center of their chaos and I inhaled. I exhaled. Deeply. I surrendered to the ache and the emptiness.

In a room made of glass, I had a vision. The field was dark. The branches were twisted. I wore a red dress with a hole that exposed the skin on my chest where my heart rested just underneath the surface.

The mean birds squalled. I raised my arms. I uncurled my fist. I laid flat my palms to the heavens.

The birds descended in a mass of black shiny wings, but they did not hurt me. Instead, they perched ever so gently on my arms, and they ate the seeds I was carrying.


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Editor: Renée Picard

Image: Sylvia McFadden at flickr 

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Kelly Russell