How I Used Yoga To Heal From Heartbreak

Photo: Getty Images/miniseries
I sat there quietly with the shades drawn in the small Brooklyn apartment that I shared with my partner. Our six-year relationship had just ended. The silence held by the room was broken only by the sound of my sobs. Thank god he was away on business because I turned full Kim Kardashian crying meme and didn’t leave my couch for three whole days. I sulked and wallowed until my tear ducts went on strike.

On the third day I did what we millennial women do: I took a selfie. I wanted to mark this day. Here lies the girl who almost drowned in her tears but decided to make a choice. As I snapped the pic of my puffy eyelids and dripping nose, I quietly said to myself, This too shall pass.

I read a passage from Ashtanga yoga teacher Kino McGregor that said, “Change only happens in the present moment. The past is already done and the future is just energy and intentions.” Life wasn’t happening to me, and although this breakup was soul-crushing, I was an active player, whether I wanted to be or not. I had to take responsibility for my choices, and acknowledge that my best thinking had brought me here—unsuccessful in my attempts at love. I knew a shift needed to happen.

I had two choices: stay frustrated, or embrace this season of discomfort as it allowed me to soften and stretch past the person I was. Yoga was a tool I had used to grieve my grandmother's death two years earlier, and yoga was the tool I returned to now.

Show yourself grace and compassion

King David, author of Psalms, wrote, “Weeping may stay the night but joy will come in the morning light.”

With a weary spirit but determined mind, my renewed personal yoga journey began. In the past, I would often dive straight into a full yoga schedule of six days a week, sometimes two classes in a day, only to be disappointed when my attendance didn’t match my internal enthusiasm. This time I committed to starting slow and focusing on consistency.

The early days of the breakup were touch and go, and showing up would sometimes be all the action I could muster for that day. Yes, I was that girl who came to class with tears in her eyes and rested in a child's pose the entire time. But I kept showing up for myself, listening to my body, and allowing myself to feel all the feels.

Yes, I was that girl who came to class with tears in her eyes and rested in a child's pose the entire time.

I had a brilliant yoga teacher ask in one class, “When did you stop choosing?”

The question stung, profound but painful. It was an empowering reminder to look at my life and see where I operated on auto-pilot and where my best intentions didn’t align with my actions. This awareness brought about a desire to elect differently.

So, I chose to anchor my practice in simple poses, resisting the urge to tune out but instead tuning in: My consciousness was heightened in every back bend and hip opener, allowing my feelings and thoughts to inform my body.

Yoga helped me acknowledge and liberate the full spectrum of my emotions, connecting in a primal way to my higher self, accessing my agency.

Take only what you need

In the book The Body Keeps the Score, author Bessel van der Kolk writes, Physical self-awareness is the first step in releasing the tyranny of the past.”

So what if I thought I’d marry this person (*Kanye shrug*). I say it sarcastically, but I’m serious—it’s okay! The yogi principle of Aparigraha, which translates into “non-attachment,” encourages us to take only what we need. It taught me to be grateful for the journey and release anticipated outcomes. Fixating on specific results is a recipe for disaster—especially results that aren't in your control.

After one class in which this theme was emphasized, I took out a pen and paper and wrote down five things I was grateful for in my past relationship. One was, “I'm grateful for the thrilling travel adventures we got to experience together.” After jotting down all five, I internally forgave him any debt I felt he owed me.

When we hoard people, things, and feelings, we weigh ourselves down with energetic and physical baggage. These objects of our infatuation will not bring us long-lasting happiness. That type of joy can only be cultivated from within.

This perspective shift expanded what my practice looked like and freed me to be thankful for what was. In class, I gave myself permission to simply move in a way that felt most intuitive. I began arriving at the studio with a new sense of wonder for what my body had in store for me that day.

Create space for the life you want

I found reprieve on my mat. It was 60 minutes where I didn't have to think about my proverbial "challenges." For 60 minutes, I could stop ruminating on what he said and what I didn't say. Instead, I simply focused on the teacher guiding me in and out of postures while listening to my breath. As my mind hooked into the flow, I began trying to link my breath with each movement. My brain got lost in the repetitive chanting of inhale and exhale, and my subconscious unlocked itself through intuitive primal movements.

This newfound courage guided me to a level of sensitivity I hadn't experienced before. My internal landscape aligned with my flesh and bones in such a way that my yoga practice became a moving prayer. It was no longer about finding flexibility or strength, but coming into a full surrender of self. Breaking open my capacity to love—love myself, my body, and others. My personal mantra became, "I open myself fully to give and receive love."

My ability to remain resilient in difficult times has long been connected to my level of physical activity. For me, embodied gestures of self-compassion like yoga or running create spaciousness for my body to process pent-up emotions and the stress hormones like cortisol.

It's now two years later, and I am fully grounded in who I am. Self-compassion and mindful movement became the pathway to emotional healing for me. In this journey, I'm constantly evolving, allowing my purpose to unfold, giving way for my most authentic self to shine through.

Ready to find your own healing? Try this flow for mental and physical balance, led by the author:

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