I was twenty-four years old when a close family friend took me to her power yoga class. As I walked into the studio, I remember seeing the Turkish evil eyes and similar tapestries hanging from the walls. Adding to the mystique were several battery lit candles and a hint of incense. A packed class filled the humid room.
Later I learned that the style, Baptiste Power Yoga, suggests the temperature of the room should be 85-90 degrees to start so the body feels warm. The instructor guided us through a steady rhythm of yoga postures and breathing exercises. At the time, I thought “great work out, I feel strong.” After that initial class, I only attended a handful of additional classes assuming the “stretching” was not what I wanted.
I Found Peace Through Yoga After Divorce
Flash forward a decade. I have a baby, a short unhappy marriage and a painful divorce, and another good friend invited me to her yoga studio for practice. This studio followed Baptiste Power Yoga as well, so the room was again humid. The room set up, however, was different from my first experience. The studio was brightly lit and free of any distracting decoration. There was no incense, and happy music was playing.
The class was listed as “basic.” In this situation, perhaps I was overconfident in my own abilities and athleticism. This was during my divorce and I was focused on weightlifting and consistent food intake as a way of dealing with the emotional pain. The instructor must’ve smelled that overconfidence and took aim at pushing me in these 75 minutes of torture.
After the class, I was left tired and sore yet aching for more. My muscles wanted to continue the rip and tear and stretch and pull. My lungs quickly got used to the steady command of “inhale, exhale” as they were called out by the instructor. My mind grew very quickly accustomed to the demand the instructor required for the remainder of the class. This was the first reason I came back the next week. I wanted my mind to be in the present.
During my divorce, my mind constantly flashed back and forth to the past, between those truly happy moments and the horrible realities. Even in the best of situations, I had periods of sadness for something that had ended. I found that yoga keeps me grounded here and now. It keeps me in the present moment through posture and breathing.
You do not have time to think about the yoga pose you just completed. You do not have time to “guess” what is coming next.
You have to be present the moment to focus on your breath and where you are at that moment.
The second reason I came back the following week was someone had called me on my excuse. During that recent class the instructor had pushed me into a pose I was unable to do and I made an excuse for not trying. I said out loud in the class, “I cannot do that.” The instructor laughed and said, “Cannot does not exist. Your mind created it. Now let’s do this pose step by step until you can.”
After class, I realized for the first time in years, someone cared enough to see through my veil of excuses and pushed me to the edge. She would not let me quit before I tried.
I imagine many others who have divorced had the same feelings as I did, I felt I was unable to do something. I was unable to keep someone’s love and affection. I was not able to keep my small family together. This instructor saw through that. She saw I needed to be guided, step-by-step until I succeeded. By the end of that first class, I succeeded.
Finally, during my separation and divorce, yoga helped me to trust new people. I had trusted someone with my happiness, and it felt like he threw it away in the end. That first yoga class hooked me. I learned over the course of the next two years to trust other instructors to lead me through postures and practices. I also learned to have confidence in myself in different moments of muscle pain, fatigue and mental stamina.
After two years of steady practice, I had enough confidence in myself enough to join the Yoga Teaching Training program. With a group of eleven women, I hunkered down for sixteen weeks of intense study, training and group therapy. The trust I developed in these women helped me move forward personally.
I think I learned this trust through the discipline of yoga.
It showed me that I could be open again; though it will take time. When I was pushed to deepen my downward dog or hold a half-moon, I learned and practiced, and I got stronger. Ultimately, strength comes from within. I learned to trust again because the strength came from me.
So, I ask myself, did yoga solve all my post-divorce problems? Well, honestly no. I still struggle with internal self-doubt and self-esteem. Yoga, however, helped me prioritize and redirect my focus. Instead of dwelling on those low moments, I find inner strength on the mat through either breathing or a quick Sun Salutation A.
I focus on the present moment and how I can make me better right now. I find peace in 75 minutes of class or even the 10 minutes of chaotic flow while my eight-year-old daughter plays around me. After the pain of divorce or any unsatisfying adventure in life, I feel finding peace is what matters most, and I find peace in yoga.