How Yoga Saved My Life
Turning 40 is a monumental event in a woman’s life. It’s the (un)official entrée into middle age, a time when she (hopefully) has most of her s--- already figured out. I had envisioned this milestone so differently in my late 30s, when I was planning out how I was going to mark the occasion. It had been my lifelong dream to see Mount Everest — climbing it was the dream-dream, but at this point in my life, I would have been content just to see it — so I had planned to take a trip to Nepal and hopefully make it to Basecamp. My husband at the time was on board with this. I would fly halfway across the world while he took care of our young son back in Brooklyn. It would be a birthday I wouldn’t forget.
Of course, you can make all the plans in the world, but life will do what it wants anyway. On my 40th birthday, instead of Kathmandu, I found myself in Las Vegas, caring for my dying mother. My family had uprooted our lives in New York a few months before, and we found ourselves in foreign territory. A fairly stable marriage was put through the wringer with a cross-country move, strained finances, and the specter of death. My days became an uphill climb of caring for my ill mother and elderly father, homeschooling my 8-year-old, and trying to meet work deadlines. Life was destabilized so quickly and so profoundly, leaving me gasping for air as if I had been thrust into high altitude with no time to acclimate.
"During those hard, hard days of endless climbing, I did the one thing I knew brought me back down to earth: yoga. I may not have realized it then, but that daily hour on my mat was my salvation."
During those hard, hard days of endless climbing, I did the one thing I knew brought me back down to earth: yoga. I may not have realized it then, but that daily hour on my mat was my salvation. As her caretaker, I could not cry in front of my mother as I imagined the tumor blooming in her spinal column, leaving her perpetually curled in a fetal position. On my mat, every articulation of my spine brought me to tears as I willed my mother to heal hers. In that space — measuring 24 inches by 68 inches — I could stretch and fold myself into my grief, leaving it all behind at the end of the hour, so I could emerge a warrior for my mother until the end of her days.
After my mother’s passing, the end of my marriage soon followed. Each time, I left more and more things on my mat — anger, sadness, fear, disappointment, more grief. It was a process of divesting, over and over again, emotions that no longer served me. Each time I got up, I was a little bit lighter, a little bit stronger.
These events are years past now, and my life looks completely different from that time when I dreamed of Everest. I breathe a little easier these days as I climb smaller mountains, literally and metaphorically. For our 50th birthday in a couple of years, some friends and I are planning to climb Mt. Fuji in Japan. If the past is any indication, whether that happens or not is anyone’s guess.
In the meantime, you’ll find me daily on my little rubber rectangle on the floor — my safe space, my terra firma — where I can show up broken and emerge whole, no matter what life has in store.