By his design, we would never speak to or see each other again.
Bewildered, unable to sleep and eat, and clawing for some sort of sanity, I made my way back to yoga. I was practicing at home in those days – but it was an inconsistent effort. My heart was caving in, my world was small, and I needed to surrender my well-being to a safe community.
So for the first time in years, I attended a yoga class. And – you guessed it – I cried my way through the entire session. I don’t remember if there were hip openers or heart openers or an emotional tone in the teacher’s voice. All I recall is dim light, bright yellow walls, a harmonium drone and the freedom to grieve.
The space of a yoga class can feel like the security of a parent’s protection. I am lucky that my path has safely led me to such rooms for practice.
* * *
2008 was not the first time that yoga hugged me through heartbreak.
I started practicing yoga in 1993. My first style was Kundalini, and it brought rapid transformation during an era of toxic and destructive living. So when I met my first major love of life in 1997, I felt emotionally healthy and ready for partnership. He was a Latin percussionist like me, he lived a spiritual life like me, and he seemed open-minded like me.
So when he suddenly announced that he’d been born again as a Christian, I was blindsided. Still, because I was in love, I prayed, “God willing, I will be a Christian.” Yup – god willing, this Jewish-born, Santeria-chanting, Kundalini-practicing girl would be a Christian. I prayed night and day for about a week. But the message came clearly – I was not meant to be born again.
I broke up with him by phone, then unplugged it for the rest of the weekend. We would never speak to or see each other again. (Talk about Karma.)
Even though I made the decision to say good bye, I thought I would die from the pain of losing my first love. Friends advised many remedies for broken hearts. But the remedy that really pulled me through was yoga. Because Kundalini yoga had empowered me to stand in my truth.
* * *
Shortly after the 2008 breakup, I became a certified yoga teacher. My blooming Vinyasa practice had evolved from a dabbling home routine to a consistent, studio-based commitment; and I yearned to give back what had been freely shared with me – the refuge to be wholly human, imperfect, striving, grieving and healing while in the safe hands of yoga community.
My deeper studies of yoga added the philosophical dimension that would carry me through my next big break up in 2010. (Yup, I just keep on trying! Lord knows why…although, I’ve been single since this one.)
If you’ve read my blogs from June 2010 forward, you are aware that I went through an unimaginable betrayal. After seven months of dating, my boyfriend revealed that – beginning long before he and I even met – he was under investigation for a federal crime. He decided to tell me when his lawyer finally let him know that the trials would start soon, and he would most likely be going to prison. (Nice of him to come clean.)
Not only did this shocking news knock the wind out of me (again), but the crime was something that I could not stomach. I had to say good bye.
“Have compassion for the unhappy,” encourage the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. “Detach from the non-virtuous.” In the months following the breakup, I went through phases of extreme anger, disgust, distrust and isolation. Yet my intention was to reach compassionate detachment – not only for the sake of honoring another human’s suffering, but for the sake of my own inner peace.
And thankfully, because I was a teacher, I felt an accountability to live my yoga in everyday life as well as possible. The responsibility to continue serving and teaching drew me out of an unfortunately familiar pain (the third big fat heartbreak) that could have sucked me away from my beloved yoga community. Instead, I continued to suit up and show up.
* * *
Practicing Asana (physical yoga) has reinforced the absolute reality that life is a process, that time takes time, and that I will feel at ease if I accept, surrender to and be patient through transitions of all kinds. Practicing yoga’s philosophies means that when the uncomfortable transitions occur by surprise, I can authentically process my pain, honestly express my humanness, and all along, continually reach out to the ideas that will bring peace. And teaching yoga offers the ultimate refuge, in my opinion. Not an escape, but a commitment to constantly dig for yoga’s solutions to life’s inevitable heartbreaks – and pass those solutions on.
OM Shanti, Shanti, Shanti.