I stepped into the familiar brick building on Broad Street for the first time in over 6 months. The vegetarian cafe and juice bar had closed and reopened as a coffee shop and bike showroom – round tables and hippie décor had been replaced with sleek wooden benches and graphic posters on the walls. Nitro brewed coffee came out of a tap and the new owner’s yellow lab wandered comfortably around the back of the store. The stage where local musicians held their open mics now displayed pastries and protein bars behind a curved, glass case.
I ordered a regular hot coffee (no room for cream) and headed upstairs to the redesigned loft. Out of habit, I almost removed my shoes at the foot of the stairs, but now, there was no need. I remembered the humble space where I had practiced yoga for the last year. I could still feel the warmth of the worn-out wooden floorboards under my bare feet, and the shadows dancing in the morning sun as it cascaded unashamedly through dirty glass windows. Arriving at the top of the stairs, the first thing I noticed was a parade of pastel-colored trek bikes, lined up suitably against the walls and windows. A small, trendy seating area in the center of the room invited customers to sit down and flip through magazines. I glanced at the center wall – the scroll with Buddha’s quotes for success was gone. So were the amber rock lamps and carefully placed pillows. The fixture above and the flooring below had both been replaced – except for the bright sunshine still streaming in through tall glass windows, the room had been transformed.
I felt a sting of grief as I remembered the entire last year. No one would know this space was once used for yoga. No one would know that the scent of eggs and vegan bacon wafted upstairs, intermingling with our burning sage and lavender oils, as we mindfully moved our bodies through poses. No one would know I came to this room initially as a way to escape, but that it slowly became my sacred ritual – a way of discovering myself. Looking back, even though I had tried to run away, the daily yoga practice actually pointed me straight towards the fire I was meant to walk through.
Have you ever looked around at the toys on the floor, the dishes in the sink, and the tiny handprints on the walls and wondered, “Did I really manifest this?” “Is this the life I asked for?” We can look around at all the mess and chaos of motherhood and still see the beauty in it. But sometimes, there is also an inner voice present, telling us that something is wrong. This is the startle that wakes you up in the middle of the night. This is the knot that forms in your stomach when you’re at the grocery store picking up chicken for dinner. This is the moment of clarity that creeps into your mind when you’re looking at your husband and you think, Does he see me? Does he know me at all?
So you try to remember all the steps it took to get here. There was a beautiful wedding, and a coveted white dress – a champagne toasted future full of endless love and happiness. Then there were pregnancies and babies, but it was more difficult than you anticipated. You had never considered infertility or genetic testing or miscarriage. And even if you didn’t experience these tragedies yourself, you had friends and sisters and cousins who did – and you wondered, How did I get so lucky?
Despite looking around and seeing all the pieces in place – my husband, my two boys, my house, and my growing business, something else nagged at me persistently to be woken up.
So I came back to my lost yoga practice and committed to it every day for a year. I used to do yoga as a form of exercise in my 20’s, but since having babies, I had let that part of myself go – temporarily at first, but then it became quite permanent. If anything, I was using yoga as a way to run away from my problems. It was time to be with myself, time to forget about all the ugliness going on at home and in my marriage. And isn’t that how a self-care routine often starts? Out of desperation? Because nothing ever seems like a good enough reason to start putting ourselves first?
Often, we start before we are ready. We start before we even understand why. Sometimes, when we can’t stand it anymore, we just START.
Some days I had to force myself to go to yoga. And once there, I often felt like leaving early. I sat on my mat at the beginning of class and thought about all the other tasks I had to do that day. I left my phone on vibrate next to my mat in case the school called about one of the boys. I made lists in my mind upon arriving about all the errands I would complete afterward. Some days, I wanted to literally run out of the room. My skin burned and my mind raced, but I made myself stay.
Moving through each pose, I felt my muscles for the first time in a decade. My thighs quivered relentlessly in Warrior Pose. My arms wavered at first but eventually found a sturdy balance in Chaturanga. My abdomen wrapped tightly around my entire torso in Triangle Pose – and for the first time I understood that we have an integrated core, one that serves our entire stomach and back, not just the flattering abdominals that peak out on the surface. The changes first started in my physical body – carrying my boys upstairs to bed became easier. Jeans that pinched in my waist fit comfortably now. Over a few months, yoga class became less of an escape and more of a wellness ritual – a way to honor and take care of myself. Then, after even more practice, yoga taught me to love myself – which I hadn’t done in a very long time.
Let’s be clear: taking care of your self is a basic survival instinct – and when you ignore that instinct for too long, pieces of your soul actually start to die. Sometimes, after years of ignoring your inner self and your inner callings, all the broken pieces you thought you had successfully propped up begin to topple apart, no longer able to withstand your putting-off or ignoring.
I’ll get to that problem later – there are more important things to focus on right now. It’s selfish to put myself first.
It’s a myth that self-care is selfish. Actually, self-care that is focused on the soul is self-sacrifice – because after a regular routine of self-care, there is actually less “self” than before. A regular self-care ritual will assist in exposing and peeling away layers of the self that aren’t serving you, in order to get to the true, indestructible parts that exist underneath.
The discoveries I made during my year of yoga are plentiful and profound. I learned to stay even when I wanted to run. I learned to accept and forgive where I had misplaced my own identity. I learned that my marriage falling apart wasn’t the worst thing in the world. So, 8 months later, when I found out my husband had been having an affair, I was able to stay with the pain, just as I was able to stay on my mat when I wanted to leave. I learned that I was strong enough to float in Flying Warrior Pose and I was also strong enough to make it through my divorce. I was strong. I was enough.
Without my selfless act of self-love, I might have crumbled apart, and instead, I came back together. Like my abdominal muscles that now wrapped tightly around my entire core, I no longer sacrificed truth for the imaginary, I no longer buried depth and knowledge under a glittery facade. I knew I had unraveled the surface, and I found my indestructible self. I couldn’t break because I was still here.
This post was originally published on Mother Hustle