Like everything else in life, yoga is easiest when we’re happy, right?
We feel fluid, our heart opens effortlessly, and even if things (say, asanas?) aren’t working out that great, we can handle it. Who cares? Life is great, and so am I!
But what if we’re not doing so well—and what if it isn’t the “small stuff“ we’re sweating?
What if we’ve been really hurt, we’ve lost somebody or a relationship ends? What can we do when our hearts have been broken open and seem to have poured out for everybody to see? How do we handle all this vulnerability and rawness and still dare to “look within” and stay connected? There are no quick fixes to be sure, but maybe there are some strategies.
Here are five that I incorporated recently—I may not be fully healed yet, but these tools continue to work for me:
1. Writing Meditation. During the first few days of this rough patch, I tried to meditate. I would sit down for my usual time and begin my silent practice. Several silent mantras came to mind, and left again. I couldn’t settle on a single one, I started fiddling, my seat became unbearably uncomfortable, and the sadness I felt was overwhelming. It was then I realized that it wasn’t going to be the usual spiel. After all, something big had happened and it required more dedication or “digging in.”
I’ve always felt writing to be therapeutic. So, I got out my journal and started jotting everything down that came to mind—and heart. It took on a feverish action, and I just kept going and going—and when eight or so pages were filled, I dropped my fountain pen and felt I could face my situation just a little better, less fearfully now that I had everything “on paper.” Whatever we write is ripe to leave our system. It has been released into the universe. Don’t worry about grammar or sentence structure, just keep writing as if your life depended on it. Maybe it does in a way.
2. Mantras. As mentioned, my silent short mantras (Japa mantras) weren’t providing the comfort I’d hoped for. I literally would forget which one I was on, and none of them seemed fitting. I dug through my mental library of Sanskrit mantras, but came up empty. I sat there, a little desperate for a moment, until suddenly I was saying the words, “I am strong.” Granted, this isn’t the “deepest” mantra, I have practiced, and neither is it particularly filled with the light that our beloved Sanskrit mantras are known for. However, it was what I felt. I felt I could be strong, and saying these basic words, spoken in my own language was suddenly the only way forward. And so, it was for the entire 15 minutes that I sat: I am strong, I am strong. For you, it might be “I am brave,” or “I am full of love,”whatever bubbles up first is probably right. If you (like me) need comfort more than anything else in this moment, keep it simple. Say what your heart dictates. It knows what it needs.
3. Your Tribe. This one might seem so simple, and you’ll laugh at me, but if it hadn’t been for my girlfriends literally feeding me, I don’t know how I would have kept from falling down. Most of them, at the time, didn’t even know what was going on. I wasn’t ready to talk about it, and I wasn’t ready for the multiplying effect it would have if they too were sad for me. By some weird coincidence, however, they made time to cook for me in the middle of the week, invited me to lunch or bought me smoothies. It was just so obvious that my heart and body required their company because they kept giving me the right things at the right time, without possibly being able to know what was going on. I felt safe and cared for. So I’m here to ask you not to stay alone with your pain. Find those women in your life who have been through it all before and be nourished by their love and wisdom.
4. Keeping your Heart Open. Okay, this one was really tough for me. Everything inside me wanted to shut down, to not feel what I was feeling but my heart wouldn’t have it. Years of conditioning it to keep the walls up had been undone by years of yoga and meditation. I realized I couldn’t go back to the unhealthy days of blind anger, self-doubt and fear, followed by a bunch of short-sighted decisions. So when the sh*t hit the fan, I remained open. I cried when the tears invaded, and let the pain move in when it needed to—even if it meant my stomach would turn into knots and I found it hard to breathe.
The odd result was, I met some extremely kind people during this period. I don’t fully understand how it happened, but these strangers would either strike up a conversation (not very common in the city of Berlin, by the way), or just smile when I asked a simple question, or offer help in some sort of a way. By keeping this schizophrenic heart—broken, but willing—I understood that I wasn’t alone with this. There are other people in this world, and there is a way to move beyond the fear of spending the rest of your life heartbroken and alone.
5. Find your Favorite Yoga. Maybe you have a favorite teacher or a studio that makes you truly comfortable. Either of these aspects of trust, I found, were key when I felt brave enough to continue my practice during these times. For a few days, I practiced at home, because I didn’t feel like falling apart with tons of strangers around me. But when I did go to my studio, I took my favorite Kundalini teacher’s class. The inevitable happened, and I did shed a few quiet tears. “Oh, well,” I thought, “I’m at the back of the class, I’ll be fine.” (And I was.) If it is financially possible, maybe even consider taking a private class. Whichever environment you choose, go easy on yourself—and if you decide not to practice, maybe refer to some of the other strategies here, or simply do what heals you. There are no rules for heartache, after all.
I hope one or all of these work for you—and until then, let us, as women (and men!), be brave with and for each other.
Author: Ricardia Bramley
Image: Unsplash/Kyson Dana
Apprentice Editor: Ceci Trigos; Editor: Yoli Ramazzina