Yoga for a Broken Heart
We met on a sunny beach, underneath the swaying palm trees and the rhythmic sounds of blue waves crashing on the shore. He sat down next to me and we began talking, marveling at the connection made within seconds of our eyes meeting. It felt like fate. Like the pull of something stronger then I could ever imagine. I will never be able to put my finger on the exact moment throughout our time there that I began to fall for him but it surely didn’t take very long. He was tall, intelligent beyond comprehension and as if I had entered his orbit I was pulled to him with incredible gravitational force. For me it had felt like the start of something incredible. The beginning of forever. For him, a few days of fun.
It hurts just as much as it did the first time. I’ve been here a dozen times throughout my lifetime. A hollowness in my chest, the angry rapid beating of the heart that seems like it is ripping apart, shattering to pieces. I’ve loved and lost more than I thought I could ever handle. More than I knew I could.
I am no stranger to heartbreak, when the man I had vowed to spend my life with, passed away years ago there wasn’t a single part of me that didn’t want to crumble. I thought I was done for. The pain in my chest so intense I momentarily believed it would be all I would ever feel. But as much as I wanted to lie down and never stand again I knew I couldn’t, I had children that needed me more than ever, and the weight of the world to carry on my shoulders so I did what I had to do. I threw the shards of my heart together carelessly back in my chest, straightened my back and pushed ahead.
It had become a habit, heartbreak is inevitable and so whenever I would get my heart broken whether by a partner, a loved one or a friend, I would stuff those emotions somewhere deep inside of me and choose to hide them. I’d mastered the art of pushing on and assuming time and distractions would mend me back together. And I’m not the only one. Time and time again we are told that the only way to deal with heartbreak is by focusing on other things, distracting yourself, taking up painting or pottery or going on holiday. Everything besides feeling. Everything besides living though the nagging sensation in our chests. We do so without question, because who really wants to feel all the hurt and pain and loss and suffering.
I had done so again and again until eventually, when I had already grown to love the man I had spent weeks with and he didn’t share any of those emotions; I had reached my breaking point. I’d reached a point in which my own denial of my emotions had clouded my vision in black smoke and there was nothing I could do to stop myself from curling up into a ball on the floor after I had simply tried to lie down.
The emotional pain I had hidden within the lining of my skin began to block my energy, began to emerge, began to transform into physical pain. First the right shoulder, then the right elbow until even the tips of my fingers started going numb. I knew that this was the end of denial that the energy had become so blocked by my unwillingness to accept and observe the pain in my heart that it was stopping new, clean energy to pass through it I needed to slow down. I needed to take a breath and for once truly feel. So, as much as I didn’t want to move, I slid down from the bed onto my mat and I started practicing. No handstands, no inversions, no power, just breathing and the release of emotions. The dam broke and I cried and cried and cried until I wasn’t sure I had any tears left but what I was left with was a body that felt lighter than it had in years and a mind that felt relief. It hurt. Of course it still hurt. Yoga didn’t magically fix all of my problems but it gave me the tools to begin breaking down the walls I’ve built around my heart so I could stop suffocating.
Which is why today I wanted to share with you a number of poses and I know, I know that when you are devastated and heartbroken, lost and confused, the last thing you may want to do is go to a yoga class and sweat on a mat which is why I will write out how to do each pose bellow so that you can do them slowly, focusing on your breathing in the comfort of your own home. Don’t be afraid to cry. I do. This made everyday easier for me and I truly hope it helps you too.
Stay in each pose for 3-5 minutes. Its important that you remember to breathe, deeply and with intention. In each pose focus on your breathing, feel each inhale and exhale. Feel them in your throat, in your lungs, in your navel.
1. Wide knee child pose with twist
We will begin in child’s pose. Take a seat with your legs tucked gently underneath you, the weight slightly resting on your ankles. Spread your things and gradually lower down your upper body between them. Stretching out with your arms. Place on of your arms through the pocket between your hips and your head as you can see in the image and twist to the side.
2. Sphinx / Seal
Sphinx: Now come to lying down on your front. Stretch your legs behind you and in this pose it’s important that we continue to lengthen our tail towards our feet as this will help protect us when doing the pose. Place your hands to your sides aligning your elbows directly underneath your shoulders in a 90-degree angle. On the inhale raise yourself up so you are resting on your forearms. Take several deep breaths.
Seal: If you will you are able to, you can intensify the pose and the compression on your lower back by rising up and resting the weight on your palms in front of you.
When going out of the pose remember to first and foremost come back into sphinx and then gradually and slowly lower yourself fully to the floor.
4. Quarter dog pose
From the lying position on your stomach, rise up to standing on your hands and knees. From your position on all fours, align your hips directly above your knees. Lower your upper body so that your elbows are not in contact with the floor. Then straighten one arm in front of you and bend the other in order to crate a pocket for your head.
5. Dragon pose (low lunge) or Lizard
From the last pose, raise up back into a table top position and now bring one of your legs forward, coming into a comfortable low lunge position. If you have sensitive knees feel free to place a mat or some other sort of padding in two layers under your back knee to help.
If you wish you can then go into Lizard pose by straightening the back leg and placing your forearms on the floor, your elbows should be beside the front leg.
6. Saddle pose or Half saddle
From the last position please sit back, you can begin by simply sitting on the heels. Then gradually lean back until you are resting on you’re forearms. See how you feel in this position. If you can go further feel free to lie back completely.
7. Dragon fly with twist or butterfly pose
Sit back once again but this time we will open our legs to the sides. Then by resting one hand on whichever thigh is the opposite and placing the other behind your back simply open your chest to the side and twist.
To do the butterfly pose simply sit on your buttocks on the mat, bend your knees and bring your feet together. You can alternate the distance between your pelvis and the heels as you can see in the picture. Grab your feet with your hands and gently bend forward, try to push your chest in front rather than down.
8. Lateral dragon fly pose
From butterfly pose simply open one of your legs to the side while keeping the other bend and close to your pelvis. Place the corresponding arm beside your open leg, on the forearm and hold your head in your other hand. Open your chest and stretch to the side.
9. Full forward bend
Come to a seated position, with your legs stretched out in front of you. Elongate the spine, imagine an invisible sting pulling you upwards from the tip of your head. Try to keep this straight spine as you lean forward. Do not try to pull yourself, simply allow gravity to do its work as you fall deeper into the stretch with every exhale.
10. Sleeping swan (left leg first)
Get into a plant position and slide the left knee between your hands open it to the side as you slide the foot of the left leg forward as you see in the image. Please distribute your weight evenly and gradually lead down until you are resting on your leg.
Come to a lying down position. Lift your hips upward and slide you hands underneath for support. Allow your back to round and lift your legs upwards and over your head to fall to the floor on the sides. Lower down your knees until they are at the sides of your head and your weight is placed on your shoulders.
Lie back and stretch your legs out in front of you. On the inhale lift up your upper body and bring only your head down so its in contact with the floor as you can see in the image. Place your hands with the palms down on both sides close to the body. Tuck your forearms and elbows a bit underneath so that you can hold the pose.
13. Lying spinal twist
Return to lying on your back and bring your arms out to the sides. Raise and intertwine the knees as you see in the image and gradually lower them to one side.
Make sure to keep the shoulders flat on the floor.
Once again we return to lying on our back and this time we bend the knees and bring them to our chest, hugging them with our arms.
Lie down on your back, arms on the sides with the palms turned upward and the body relaxed.
I hope this practice goes a little in helping you through any difficult time, I am really grateful to have the opportunity to share this with you today, no matter how hard it may be - it will get better.