Yoga and I went through a terrible break up.
And it was a lengthy one considering how much I adore it and how obsessive I can be about it at times.
The fallout occurred after I injured my shoulder, or should I say after a yoga instructor injured my shoulder by attempting to mold my body into a position that I wasn’t mentally or physically prepared to move into.
Looking back, I can see that it was likely my fear and resistance to the maneuvre that caused the torn ligament. But regardless of who, why or what was to blame, the pain that resulted meant that yoga and I had to separate for some time.
Despite the intense pain, I see now that I packed up my mat and gave up far too quickly, fooling myself into resting, rather than attempting to gently push myself through it. I could’ve continued without damaging my shoulder further, but instead I stopped completely, believing I would start again tomorrow, or the next day.
I also told myself that a big part of my decision to quit was because I had swapped Hatha yoga for Ashtanga yoga and it wasn’t resonating with my mind, body or soul. I desperately wanted to enjoy it and prove to myself I was capable of the pace, but it wasn’t the right fit for me and I wasn’t in the right mental state to allow the practice to flow organically.
Between the practice and the instructor and my shoulder and my stubbornness, I left that yoga class in extreme pain and never returned.
Fast forward many months and I still hadn’t found my way back to yoga. And yoga didn’t come to me either.
No classes caught my attention, no one tried to talk me into going and other than reoccurring thoughts popping into my head telling me I should try to return, it seemed yoga and I were done for good.
Or so I thought.
It seems the one thing I failed to do during the breakup was figure out exactly what went wrong.
Yoga has been a huge part of my life since I attended my first class in my early 20s and eventually earned my qualification as an instructor. I never realized how much I needed it, how much it shaped almost every part of my existence.
When I was yoga-ing I felt clearer, mentally, and stronger, emotionally.
I was more grounded and balanced, not just spiritually, but physically as well. I wasn’t so clumsy!
I was more mindful about what food and drink I consumed, and how my body absorbed it.
I slept better, my breathing was more productive, I rarely felt fatigued and I had more energy. I felt calm, and rarely suffered from anxiety or stress.
I was more alert, aware of my surroundings and highly-attuned, attentive and sensitive to nature.
And the ironic thing is that while I was doing yoga I had far less physical injuries as my body was flexible and toned. I felt centered, so I was less likely to bump into things or have minor accidents—which I do often.
So, in trying to protect my body and convincing myself I was giving it time to heal, I was instead consciously choosing to stay away from the one thing that was helping me heal emotionally, mentally and physically.
Yoga and I needed to talk.
When I sat with myself and softly questioned why I was so reluctant to make up with yoga, I was genuinely surprised by what I discovered.
The only thing keeping me from what I loved most was my ego—it was standing so tall and proud that it was blocking the light that would have allowed me to see the situation clearly.
It all came down to this one thing: I was afraid.
I was afraid of Ashtanga yoga, as so many people had told me their tales of intense physical work-outs, and in some cases burnout.
I was afraid because someone had moved my body, quite forcibly, without my prior agreement.
I was afraid of speaking out when someone did something that conflicted with how I felt, emotionally or physically.
I was afraid to return to something that had caused me prolonged pain and suffering.
I was also afraid—and this was my biggest moment of awakening—to go back to yoga when I felt that my body wasn’t as flexible or toned as it had been when I was practicing regularly.
My ego was stopping me from returning to something that was highly beneficial for me, all because of fear and “what if’s.”
I knew that the first few months back at yoga were going to feel uncomfortable, as I had not been practicing, so I chose the easy road and put the thought far from my mind each time it crept in.
Yoga and I hadn’t mutually broken up—I had abandoned it when I needed it most.
Instead of pushing through my emotional, mental and physical barriers, I made up excuses and irrational reasons for not returning, when I should have been reminding myself that it’s about progress, not perfection.
The moment I faced my fears, I felt instantly at ease.
I found a new yoga practice, one that I felt comfortable with and trusted. And I began again, slowly.
I vowed that the next time I found myself avoiding something, I would remind myself to look inside and curiously ask why. The answers are always within. A simple conversation with myself would have saved months of unnecessary internal and external friction.
I need yoga. It is the one thing that keeps me stable, in all areas of my life.
Author: Alex Myles
Image: elephant journal on Instagram
Editor: Nicole Cameron