The anxiety was creeping up and threatening to take over.
I could feel my heart begin to race, the anxious movements of my hands as I fiddled with whatever was near.
I need to go for a run, I thought.
I wanted to run through and away from these thoughts and feelings. I wanted to run far and ignore that any of this was happening. But it was cold out, and my foot’s still recovering from an injury, so I just sat with the chaos.
I sat with the looming clouds and storm that was brewing within.
“Maybe just get on your mat,” the voice in the back of my mind suggested in that gentle, slap-in-the-face kind of way.
I had a five-second window before I talked myself out of it, so I jumped up, put on my “chill vibes” yoga playlist, and got on that damn mat for the first time in months.
As I crawled into my practice and slowly breathed through a stiff and sticky cat/cow stretch, I let my breath begin to soften my body. I moved in ways my body had been craving; she was seducing me with the intoxication of a long-lost lover. Each breath taking me deeper, I knew I was about to lose myself. I lingered in the movement, clutching the distraction.
As I moved into the yin portion—the long, slow, and steady holds—I knew what was coming. My heart began to tighten as all the hurt, discomfort, and anxiety of the recent few months began to wave fervently at me, as though I would somehow forget they were there.
I inched my way into pigeon and let my breathing become more shallow, my throat closing up with that pre-crying tightness. The other side showed no mercy, as the floodgates opened, sending tears spilling onto my mat in puddles.
I didn’t leave you.
I am still here.
I am not going anywhere.
I’ve been practicing yoga for 10 years and teaching for two. Yoga has been my greatest salvation and most beautiful teacher, but also my darkest addiction and my most turbulent relationship.
I have broken up with her more times than I can count. I’ve rolled up my mat, letting it collect dust in the corner, making every excuse possible to avoid it.
When I look at this relationship, I’m definitely the dysfunctional one. I’m volatile and toxic, taking yoga on an emotional roller-coaster, but still expecting her to be at her best every time I need her.
I take her sweetness for granted. I express my undying love and gratitude one day, then harshly snub her the next.
But yoga always waits. She is patient and kind, loving and compassionate. She seems to understand that it’s really truly not her. It’s always me. It’s me not wanting to face the many demons looming in the shadows. It’s me not wanting to own my sh*t or feel my body when it’s not exactly where I want it to be. It’s me getting in my own way.
I’m learning, though. We’re all still learning, aren’t we?
We begin to see the beauty in the breakup every time we return—especially when we don’t want to, and we resist it the most. We avoid her when we need her so desperately, because she reflects the truths we don’t want to see, and she reveals the answers we aren’t quite ready for.
But, when we embrace that beauty and soften into the warm hug and soft caress she offers—when we say yes to her when it seems impossible—we can keep our eyes closed a little longer and breathe a little deeper as we travel further within, knowing she won’t let us fall.
My practice reminds me that in this ever-changing world with more uncertainties and doubts than we know what to do with, yoga isn’t going anywhere.
That mat will always be there for me—no matter what—physically and metaphorically.
No matter how long we neglect it, making excuses as to why we can’t unroll it, it stays loyal and true. Never asking more from us than we are capable of in that moment. Showing us nothing but compassion and unconditional love.
Reminding ourselves how we felt on our best days—the days where the practice ignited us and set our desires on fire like the sparks of fresh romance—may allow us to harness those feelings and carry them with us into the storm, so that we can continue to get on our mats.
We must stay compassionate toward ourselves on the days when the honeymoon phase seems to be a distant memory, and all we want is to walk away and give up. Staying with yoga when it’s the last thing we want allows us to trust her a little more deeply and let our hearts softly open, because we know we are never too much, too broken, or too unworthy for the love she has to offer.
The more open, vulnerable, and raw we are with yoga, the more fulfilling and beautiful the relationship becomes. Show her your heart, and allow her to be your rock.
Letting the salty tears wash over our open cuts can seem excruciating at times. We’d so much rather hide and lick those wounds in solitude, than show them to our most intimate lover for fear of driving them away—but we must remember that the ground our mat lies on is solid, and our practice is the safe harbor that never falters.
It is that relationship that has never left our side, even when it seems unbearable. She will be right there beside us when we’ve hit rock bottom. We will not fall any further, the sturdiness and foundation is unbreakable, and we will rise up from this moment, from this feeling.
All we have to do is get on our mat.
Just like any relationship, when we feel hurt—or perhaps when we’ve displayed too many of our imperfections, and we’re scared—it takes time to build up that trust and openness again.
Take small, timid steps if you must, remain cautious, and keep your guard up—if you can. But we can only ignore the flirtatious smile and captivating charm yoga possesses for so long; she will most likely enchant us to stay a little longer and move with our breath, as we lose ourselves in her comfort and unwavering refuge.
Child’s pose may be as far as we get some days, and that’s okay—so long as we start showing up for her the way she has shown up for us every single day since we met.
Author: Amanda Hanna
Image: Flickr/Helen Alfvegren
Editor: Yoli Ramazzina
Copy editor: Travis May
Social editor: Callie Rushton