Accepting means you allow yourself to feel whatever it is you are feeling at that moment. It is part of the isness of the Now. You can’t argue with what is. Well, you can, but if you do, you suffer.” ~Eckhart Tolle
Two years ago on this day, I began a yoga practice that would forever change my life. I stumbled out of bed at 6 am, rushed down the street from my apartment in the darkness, rain pounding against my face, and walked into my first class at my neighborhood hot yoga studio. I set out my old, worn pink yoga mat, and lay down on the floor.
Laying in savasana (corpse pose) under the dim studio lights, I felt a flurry of emotions: sadness, exhaustion, confusion.
What happened to my life? Who am I?
What am I even doing here? I’m not a yoga person?!
Just five days earlier I moved out of the home I had shared with my partner of seven and a half years and into a tiny studio apartment. I was living alone for the first time since college and felt like I was somewhere between a midlife crisis and total breakdown. I had been up until 2 am the night before watching The Walking Dead, thinking to myself that I didn’t know how I was going to get through this all. To say I was heartbroken, lost, and confused was putting it lightly. But, somewhere inside of me, I knew this was my chance to dig deep into self-reflection and I found my way to yoga.
I had tried yoga many, many times throughout the years. Visiting different studios and trying different types of yoga with different instructors. As much as I had ambitions of being a “cool, hip yogi,” I never felt like yoga was for me. Until, one day, it was.
And so, on that gloomy October morning, I began my relationship with yoga… and my relationship with myself.
Rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.” – JK Rowling
I visited that studio every morning at 6:30 am. Some days I felt nervous with anticipation. Some days I was barely awake because some nights I barely slept. And some days I felt exhausted down to the depth of my bones… but somehow I found the strength to get out of bed and go to yoga.
Yoga became my haven and safe space. That beautiful little studio became the place that would hold me with love and compassion when I couldn’t do that for myself.
At that point I felt like the rug had been pulled out from under me and I had lost everything I’d built in my life. With the end of that relationship, I had lost my best friend, my home, and my stable footing. Every day I felt further and further from the me I knew and soon I began my descent to rock bottom.
I would never wish rock bottom on anyone, but what I learned about myself during my rock bottom could never have been learned any other way. See, even though it was all about loss and the end of a relationship, it really wasn’t.
That relationship ending was just the catalyst for other life events to start spiraling and at the end of the day, my rock bottom had nothing to with this other person – my ex was a lovely, wonderful person at the time and continues to be a lovely, wonderful person in my life today.
My rock bottom was about the way I saw myself and the way I let events dictate my sense of self-worth. And so it began…
Standing deep breathing.
A legal confrontation.
Half moon pose.
A car accident.
Hands to feet pose.
My cat getting surgery.
My cat getting sick.
Standing head to knee pose.
A career change.
Standing bow pose.
A career failure.
My neighbor’s apartment becoming infested with bed bugs.
Standing separate leg stretching.
Being forced into temporarily giving up custody of my cats.
A hip injury.
Another career change.
Wind removing pose.
A foot injury.
Another relationship ending.
Full locus pose.
Don’t get me wrong here. There were so many things to be grateful for, as there always are, and there were countless moments of beauty and peace.
However, it felt like every time I caught my breath for a moment, I lost my footing again. There were many days when I shed tears in that studio, thankful for the heat which could disguise those tears as sweat. Yoga gave me a safe place to hold my broken soul with compassion; to mend the wounds and at the same time, rub salt all over them again. It was an incredible experience to somehow find myself stronger and yet more broken each day.
Yoga does not remove us from the reality or responsibilities of everyday life but rather places our feet firmly and resolutely in the practical ground of experience. We don’t transcend our lives; we return to the life we left behind in the hopes of something better.” ~ Donna Farhi
Yoga was my security blanket and I will forever be grateful to that little studio and those instructors who were my spiritual guides during those dark times. It felt like my journey back to life took forever, but I’m proud to stand here today, two years later, a better, stronger, and more grounded person.
My relationship with yoga, just like my relationship with myself, has changed over the years. Sometimes the classes are transcendent and I leave feeling on top of the world. Other times I can’t stop looking at the clock while I mentally complain about sweat burning my eyes and stressing over all the things that I have to do after class. Some days I feel like my body is solid and as I attempt to kick out into standing bow pose, I feel strong, beautiful, feminine, and alive. Other days, I criticize myself as I lose my balance, fall over, and attempt to regain composure again.
But regardless of how each pose goes, regardless of what’s happening… the key is to get right back in it. Fall down, but get up. Topple over, but come back to the mat. Always come back to the mat and your center.
When you find peace within yourself, you become the kind of person who can live at peace with others.” ~ Peace Pilgri
At the end of the day, we can’t predict what will happen in our lives. Maybe we can’t count on other people or future events. And maybe in our darkest times, we feel like we can’t even count on ourselves anymore. But please come back to the mat. Always come back to your center, to your strength, to yourself.
We never stop growing and learning so I know my journey of self-discovery is far from over. I still have work to do, as we all do, and I know at some point I will have to face this darkness again, but I believe that each time these hard moments pass, we emerge as stronger, deeper, and more compassionate people. And this is exactly how I want to show up in the world.
To anyone who is struggling and facing your rock bottom at the moment, please know that you are not alone.
Sending you love and light. Namaste.