March 30, 2016

The Mat.

yoga mat feet bend

“Take a moment and think about what you are bringing to your mat today.”

This is how tonight’s yoga class began. This is probably an opening invitation to our mat that many of us have experienced before.

What do we bring to the mat? Why are we at this class?

Each day is different for me as it is for everyone who practices yoga. Today is different though.

As the instructor repeats this sentence again, all I can think is, if you only knew everything I am brining to my mat; you would run! Today I bring grief, heartbreak, love, sadness, and despair. I am not sure my mat can handle what I have with me tonight. I will need a different kind of strength to make it through tonight. Strength from somewhere deep inside—an inner strength that I have doubted for a long time. I am here because I am a mess, and it is time to be honest with myself.

Life has knocked me down into a dark place; I am trying to claw my way out, and I find myself here, on my mat. Tonight I am nursing my soul, my spirit and my wounds.

They are all aching. My body physically hurts, my heart hurts; I have never felt despair like I do tonight. The past few months have been a special kind of hell. After spending eight months physically displaced after my house went up in flames, all of the trauma and grief that I hadn’t dealt with has decided to rear its ugly head. It’s trying to destroy me and I don’t know how much fight I have left. Everything around me is crumbling. If the trauma of the fire and moving back home wasn’t enough, my boyfriend has ended things and I am watching my friend die of cancer. I am so uncomfortable at home and in life. I don’t know where to go or who to turn to; so I go to yoga. This studio has been the only place where I feel somewhat normal. Never in 38 years have I experienced feelings like this, but being here, on my mat, gives me some semblance of control.

I can’t help but think, what would my yoga instructor think if I confessed to everything that I am putting on my mat? But then I realize it doesn’t matter what she thinks. The only thing that matters right in this moment is being present for this class and making it through. So I do what I can, I feel the power inside me as every ounce of me wants to give up and walk out. It is a funny thing what the mind and the physical body can to do help or hinder one another. As I get up to Warrior 2, I keep repeating the word strength over and over, as I watch the sweat beads dripping off my fingertips.

As we near the end of class, in my favorite pose, resting pigeon, I feel the emotions welling up inside of me and I am certain they will soon come out. This wouldn’t be the first time the tears have fallen, and I have come to welcome them here because this room has become a safe place. And so it begins, my salty tears start falling from my eyes, running down my face, onto my mat. I pour out my trauma, grief and heartbreak and allow it to flow through me in the only way I know how. One thing I know for certain because I tell all of my patients this is in order to heal it, you must feel it. So I feel all of the hurt, sadness, pain, anger, heartache and despair and allow it to wash over me. It is a step towards creating a new normal for me.

My yoga journey started about a year ago and I wasn’t sure what it would bring to my life; I just knew I needed something more. As I dipped my toes into my spiritual journey of meditation and yoga, I didn’t know where it would lead me. I had no idea how incredibly important yoga would become to my sanity in the wake of tragedy. Yoga has been my safe place, my healing place, the only place where I have felt a sense of normalcy. As I continue on my journey of healing from the trauma of my fire, the loss of my relationship and the death of my friend, I know that this studio, these instructors, and this practice will continually show me the strength inside me that I have to carry on. So whatever it is you bring to your mat, bring it, own it, feel it, work through it and walk away knowing that you didn’t give up.

“Letting go is the hardest asana.”


Author: Jill Kottmeier

Editor: Caitlin Oriel

Image: CityofStPete/Flickr

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