I never thought of myself as someone who needed to be healed from anything, but let me start by telling you that I believe yoga healed me. I had a good life. Or at least I convinced myself that I did. It was 2011. I was a happily married mother of two, working a full-time, well-paying corporate job with a live-in nanny to help pick up the slack at home whenever I couldn’t keep up. I drove an expensive vehicle, lived in a big home and took paid vacations at least once or twice a year. I had everything I thought I ever wanted. I definitely had more than I needed, as far as tangible, materialistic things are concerned. But something was missing. Yes, as corny as it sounds, it is true. On the outside I had the perfect life, but on the inside I felt like my life was falling apart. I became obsessed with working out and controlling my eating. I was always passionate about exercise and being healthy, but this was different. I was becoming addicted to it. I would wake up at 5am, head to my basement gym and work out to the point of exhaustion. If I didn’t feel sore the next day I would push myself harder the following day. When I wasn’t getting the results I wanted (because they were unrealistic goals), I began to change my eating. No, let’s be honest. I didn’t just change my eating, I started to eat a lot less. I never suffered from eating disorders like anorexia or bulimia, but when I look back now, it is quite obvious that I had a very complicated relationship with food. As soon as food entered my body, I was already thinking of ways I could get it out. Run, walk, bike, chase the kids, take multiple trips up and down the stairs…you get the point. This obsession was taking over my life. This need to control, count calories, count steps, count the pounds lost or gained (as little as they were) are what drove me, day in and day out. The stronger my obsession got, the angrier I became. I wasn’t getting skinny. I wasn’t happy. I definitely had more energy but it felt like energy overload. My adrenaline was through the roof and it wasn’t being channelled properly. I found myself angry and on edge all the time. I was yelling at my husband, screaming at the kids, and even found myself yelling at the nanny when there was no one else around to get mad at. Nobody could do anything right. Nobody was able to make me happy. What was wrong with everyone?
It wasn’t until I took my first hot yoga class that everything changed. This small little studio around the corner from where I worked. I found it by chance on my lunch hour on a cold wintery morning. You can call it a coincidence but I don’t believe in that word. I was meant to find that studio, that teacher, at that exact point in my life. The universe was setting it up because it knew that I was ready for it. If I am being completely honest, I was interested in hot yoga because I thought it would be another way to help me lose weight. Yes I said it. I cringe as I write this because I know that yoga is so much more than that and I also know that I didn’t need to lose the weight. I know that now. I just kept thinking that if I lost a few more pounds, I would somehow be happier. It’s hard to admit this. But I need to expose myself. I need to make myself vulnerable. That is precisely what happened when I laid down in savasana in that scorching hot yoga room, with sweat dripping down my entire body. As I became aware of all the sweat and tried to figure out how many pounds I may have lost during that class because of all the calories I must have burned, I came to realize something much more important. I noticed there was a lot of sweat on my face. It didn’t take me long to realize that it wasn’t all sweat. There were tears! A lot of them, just sliding down the sides of my face. I was crying! Right there, on my cheap and slippery yoga mat, in the middle of a hot yoga room surrounded by a bunch of sweaty strangers, I was balling my eyes out. WTF?! Why was I crying? I don’t cry in public. I couldn’t figure it out just then but what I did know, immediately, was that I had fallen in love. In love with the class, the teacher, the room, the studio, and even my smelly mat. All of it. I loved everything about that hour I just spent during my lunch break and knew I needed to feel it again. So back I went, the next day, and the day after that, and the day after that one. This is where my true yoga journey began. Everything before that just seemed like a different life. You know just like parents ask themselves the question of what they did before they had children? I was asking myself that same question about yoga. How had I lived this long without it being a part of my daily habit?
Soon, my yoga classes began to replace my early morning workout sessions. My body was feeling great and I didn’t feel the need to work out as vigorously as I had been up to that point. But more importantly, I was beginning to feel better emotionally. I didn’t feel as angry all the time. It wasn’t long before my yoga classes began to replace my noon sessions with my therapist/marriage counsellor. I didn’t crave her sessions anymore, spilling my heart out and breaking out into tears. I was now able to do all that on my mat, without having to speak or listen to anyone else. And let’s face it, it was a heck of a lot cheaper and much more gratifying. Things were still falling apart around me. My “happy” marriage was on it’s last limb, my nanny had quit, my grandmother who helped raise me had passed away (as did both of my maternal grandparents within months of each other), and my job was in jeopardy. Yet I still felt grounded. I knew that as long as I had my practice I would be okay. It may sound weird, I know, but I can’t explain it or make you understand it. Unless you have experienced something like this, it just won’t make sense to you. Every single time I arrived on my mat I felt a huge overwhelming sense of peace come over me. On most days, however, savasana was the hardest. It forced me to be still and come into my thoughts and that was definitely a place I did not want to go. I was good at escaping. Good at deflecting. Good at pretending that everything was okay when it wasn’t. I couldn’t do that in savasana. Lying there on my mat in silent meditation, I was forced to face my demons, head on and as difficult as that was it was precisely what I needed. As the months progressed, I began to see things more clearly. I began learning to accept what was and acknowledging the things I was unable to change. I was beginning to realize that I didn’t have as much control over my life as I once thought I did…and the funny thing about that was I didn’t really care. I was actually open to the idea of accepting what fate had in store for me.
My marriage ended that year. It actually ended long before that, but I was finally ready to accept it. By August of 2012 I was officially divorced and living with my parents. A few months after that, my employers, who I had been working with for over a decade, had decided to sell the business which meant I was going to be out of a job. Working for the new owners was not an option for me. So there I was, a 38 year old divorced mother of two, unemployed and living with her parents. Sounds attractive doesn’t it? How did I get through it you ask? How did I will myself to get out of bed every morning? I was blessed with an amazingly loving and supportive family and was fortunate to find a man shortly after my separation, who showed me the true meaning of love and what it means to have a partner. But what actually helped heal me? I mean really heal the broken pieces, not of my heart, but of my soul? Help to fix the distorted ideals I had about life and for so long had tried to live up to? It was my yoga practice. It was learning about when to let go, and knowing that giving in didn’t mean giving up. It was learning that forgiveness was necessary – forgiving myself as well as others. It didn’t mean I had to forget or accept what others had done, but that I had to forgive them anyway in order to free myself of the chains that had been holding me down for so long. I learned about non-attachment and the power it holds when applied to “stuff”. It was about truly accepting the fact that losing my job or ending my marriage didn’t make me a failure. It was the various teachers who would walk around the room while putting us in challenging poses in excruciating heat (I was doing a lot of Moksha at this time) and talking to us. Talking to me. There were times I swear I felt like the teacher was speaking directly to me and only me. The physical benefits that I was achieving through my regular yoga practice were definitely a bonus, but for the first time in my life, that wasn’t the driving force behind me wanting to continue, and for me that was HUGE! I was beginning to feel like I had a new lease on life. I felt like a happier version of my old self. Still the same person, only better. I was feeling inspired and beginning to feel like I truly had something to offer. I wanted to be able to make other people feel how my yoga teachers had helped me feel. I decided to take my yoga teacher training, but that my friends, is an entirely separate story that will be saved for another time.
Why did I share all this with you? I don’t know for sure. I know that I felt in my gut that some of you needed to read this. I don’t know why but I just did and I learned long ago to listen to my gut. Maybe you’re in the middle of a crisis, and don’t know what to do or perhaps you have just experienced a life-changing event whether it be the end of a marriage/relationship, loss of a job, death of a loved one, or diagnosis of a serious illness, and are having a hard time seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. Or maybe you just feel stuck. Stuck in a place you desperately want to get out of. Whatever your burden may be, know that there is hope. Know that you are not alone. There is someone out there who has experienced what you are experiencing and many others out there who can and want to help and support you. Find something that drives you. Something you are passionate about and let that be your compass. For me it is yoga. It started out as just my yoga practice but has now encompassed my yoga teaching. I am grateful for my mat and for everyone who places their mat in front of me and I will continue on this journey for as long as I need to be on it.
Until next time,