How Yogis Get Through Breakups


I had a friend recently tell me about a tearful, man-related moment she had in a yoga studio, when a teacher came up to her and said “Aparigraha, my dear. Don’t cry, you’re a yogi now.”

I laughed out loud. I loved this teacher’s facetiousness! Aparigraha, or non-grasping or non-possessiveness, is one of the 8 limbs of yoga, and is the deceptively straight-forward practice of letting go what no longer serves us, whether it’s people, habits, possessions or thoughts. Wouldn’t it be great if you could hop on your mat or cushion, and suddenly release all the anger, sadness and despair that we bottle up on a regular basis?

This is something I struggle with on a personal level, and it may be completely self-imposed (as most things are): as a yoga instructor and wellness coach, I’m not really supposed to get angry. Or depressed. Or intensely bitchy for no reason. I’m supposed to read a Rumi quote on my Pinterest feed and remind myself that the Universe is vast and go on my merry way, loving generously.

Just shut the hell up.

But ending a relationship sucks. It doesn’t matter who broke up with who, or how long you were seeing each other, or under what particularly convoluted circumstances it happened, breaking up is the pits. Usually a weird mix of relief and vague despondency, reactions also include manic DGAF episodes oscillating with crippling anguish.

According to the above, I’m being a bad yogi, listening to The National and being sad about my recent breakup.

This isn’t to say that yoga doesn’t help, because it does immensely. The body remembers everything your mind does and doesn’t; it holds sadness in your hips as tension, anger in your traps, stress in your jaw. Regular practitioners can usually recall a class or two when the person on the mat next to them begins to softly sniffle during the hip opening pose pigeon prep. Or an intense anger arise while practicing goddess or full splits.

Confession: Sometimes I burst into tears during my daily meditation. I don’t know why…it just happens. Sometimes I’ll feel sad about something I can’t quite put my finger on, or sometimes I’ll know what I’m crying about, and other times I’m not even sad but my body is weeping. Weird, right?  

This is the body working through emotions that have been buried. They might not even be yours; they could be ancestral or collective. I’ve found that it’s useful to acknowledge these emotions and just let them go, without musing too much about how or why. The body works in amazing, nonlinear ways.

Tantra teaches us that there is divinity in every human experience, that every moment of rage, melancholy, and despair, along with every moment of joy, bliss and ecstasy. But what do we usually do? I’m totally guilty of distracting myself with other partners or keeping so busy that my head spins. We use everything in our arsenal–from constantly refreshing our Facebook feeds, to keeping our phones glued to our hands, to maxing out credit cards–to avoid feeling the discomfort of loss, to avoid processing what has happened.

But this is what our body remembers, and if our minds are never able to process the grief, then we never get over it, and we create patterns are are either not useful (at best) or completely destructive (at worst).

So when working through a traumatic experience like a breakup, feel the full experience: despair, scream, cry, put Kid A on repeat, get drunk. Then let it go. Then feel it as it resurfaces, then let it go again. Here

Know what you need

When I’m sad, I want to be alone. My friends want to take me to a bar to talk about it and are afraid that I’m holding it in–and I love them so deeply for it! But I know myself better than they know me (about certain things) and usually what I need is tea, a book and some downtime to just figure out what I’m feeling. Then I’ll talk about it if I need to. People close to me get worried when I don’t–or even more worried when I do–cry, but I’ve never really expressed my emotions in that way (vulnerability issues, anyone?). 


Know how you react to grief–maybe you need to rehash every text, everything said and done during the course of your relationship with your besties. Maybe you need to sequester yourself for a week and resurface ready to talk it out. Maybe you’ll just be in a half-funk for a few weeks. Learn how you react to sadness and anger, and nurture yourself in that way. The key is knowing the motivations behind what you want. Are you avoiding alone time because you don’t want to process your thoughts? Are you shutting people out because you’re avoiding intimacy? Finding this balance is important. Do these things, but do them mindfully and be aware of why you’re doing them.

Find time to spend alone

Use some solitary time to really check in to see how and what you’re feeling. Sit or lie down for as little as 5 minutes, and just notice without judging or trying to change anything. Notice where you’re feeling what. I feel sorrow in the middle of my chest, and joy in my collarbones. The simple act of observing without trying to convince yourself to feel or act differently is supremely liberating.

…then spend time with people

to put it all in perspective. Maybe even hug someone for 20+ seconds.

Set the intention of creating space

There’s a difference between blindly grasping at something and actually setting a goal to do it. As nebulous and intangible it may see, setting the intention to let go of a relationship can do wonders. You give yourself permission to stop cycling over thoughts, asking yourself why or what could have been done. You give yourself closure.

You can even turn this into a little ritual: during the new moon (a perfect time to set intentions) get quiet, muster up some gratitude and write something like this down:

I am ready to let this relationship go, and I create space in my life to love up myself, and be open to love from others.

It doesn’t have to be that exactly, phrase it in a way that feels good to you. You’ll be surprised at how powerful this can be, in both how you feel and the types of energy that you attract.

Work it out

Finally, move. Go for a walk, a run, take a yoga class–just give yourself a chance to sweat and physically move all the emotional clutter. Plus, exercising releases feel-good hormones.

And now for another Pinterest quote:


except I like this one.
except I like this one.

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