I was in an abusive relationship for almost three years and like many women, I was in complete denial about the situation until an abuse counselor helped me change my mindset and get out. Once I was on my own again, I needed a healthy outlet for the trauma I was still processing, so I tried hot yoga. Here’s how it helped me.
I faced the facts of what I’d been through. One of the hardest aspects of recovering from abuse is just accepting that it happened in the first place. You think you could never end up in a situation like that until you are. Accepting the truth can be extremely painful and even mind-bending, especially if you’ve been the victim ofgaslighting. In the safe and relaxing environment of a yoga class, I gained the mindfulness tools to be able to accept the truth while analyzing my role in a non-judgmental way.
I mourned everything I’d lost. Have you ever been the person crying in Child’s Pose in a yoga class? I’m not ashamed to admit I’ve been there, and more than a few times. The next stage of recovery hot yoga took me to was mourning. Even though it was an incredibly toxic relationship, I still had to mourn its loss. Yogis will tell you that trauma and pain can get stuck in your physical body. The bending, stretching, and sweating of a hot yoga class push all of that pain out of your muscles and into the forefront of your mind to be released. Sounds scary, but it was a lot less intimidating to deal with it in a yoga class than at home by myself.
I stopped being so mean to myself. My yoga instructor would often ask us to bring our awareness to our thoughts. When I began to observe the voice in my head, I realized most of the time I wasn’t being very nice to myself, especially when I was falling over in Tree Pose. Even though I was no longer in contact with my abusive ex, I was still repeating the things he had said to me like a broken record.I also realized that I was seriously blaming myself for the abuse. I felt like I’d betrayed myself. By replacing self-hating thoughts with self-love mantras, I was finally able to work towards forgiving myself.
I learned to love my body. After dating a guy who was on an endless quest to get me to lose weight, my body and I weren’t on the best terms. Since many abusers take advantage of insecurity, learning to love yourself is key to breaking the cycle of abuse. Taking the time out of my day to nourish my body and mind in a yoga class felt like a radical act of self-love. Plus, watching my body gain strength and learn to do lots of cool things really challenged my negative thoughts towards my body.
I detoxed from all the things and people that were bad for me. One of the best things about hot yoga is detoxing, and I don’t just mean sweating. Yes, sweating out last night’s happy hour and fajitas feels amazing, but I also detoxed negative thought patterns and toxic people. Through the non-judgmental awareness cultivated through yoga, I was finally able to begin releasing some of the things in my life that no longer served me.
I learned how to set boundaries. Did I end up in an abusive relationship because I wasn’t firm in my boundaries or are my boundaries weak because they were systematically worn down by my abuser? For me, the answer was both.Through awareness of my body, I was able to sense the physical sensations that occurred when I let someone violate a boundary, like a stomachache and tense shoulders. By activating my throat chakra in Camel Pose, I reclaimed the ability to speak up for myself. Do not try to cut me in line at the grocery store!
I resisted relapse. After we’d been apart for a few weeks, my ex showed up at my house and begged me to go out to dinner with him. Feeling confident after hot yoga, I agreed. After he commented that I’d lost weight, I ordered $70 worth of sushi, which he paid for, and took most of it to go with me. When he asked me to go home with him, I laughed in his face. I guess yoga also helped me get back my sense of humor!
I spent more time with my friends. My ex never let me out of his sight, which meant I had sorely neglected the other relationships in my life. Not only did I now have the time and energy to feed my friendships, I also dragged my friends with me to yoga. Years later, we still hit up hot yoga on a regular basis and have dealt with many personal crises together on the mat.
I learned to love alone time.One of the factors that kept me in an abusive situation was my fear of being alone. I hated being alone because I thought it reflected poorly on my social skills, but mostly I didn’t want to be alone with my emotions. Yoga gave me tools I can use whenever my emotions seem too overwhelming, but it also helped me clear some of the issues I was afraid to face. More often than not, I’m pretty content spending Saturday night drinking tea and reading a good novel, but if I ever do feel lonely, I just head over to a hot yoga class and connect with my community there.
I embraced being single. Having been in a relationship for three years, being single sounded terrifying. My first date post-breakup, I had a panic attack in my car and nearly left. Instead, I remembered to breathe and survived re-entering single life. An underappreciated side of yoga is the sense of play. Yoga helped me to see being single as a fun new adventure, not a painful struggle to convince someone else to love me.
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