Yoga, Sobriety & Letting Go

I’ve been doing a lot of yoga lately. I started the practice last fall—shortly after my internship began—as a way to find some sort of “leveling force” for my life when things became a bit too chaotic or stressful. It was such a needed and welcome reprieve for me to walk into the dark yoga studio at my gym, barefoot and wound-up, ready to let the day dissolve off of me through my power poses.

At first, I attended classes with a gal, Bridget, who is currently dating my ex-boyfriend’s best friend/roommate, Ry. She and I became friends during the time that I was with my ex, and the four of us together were a “home” unit of sorts. We all had plans of moving in together and being that special kind of chosen family. We went to concerts together, spent late nights laughing together, endured the 2016 election together, loved each other. That was as close to the feeling of acceptance I’ve felt in years.

Then, in October, I broke up with my ex after nearly two years of dating. I broke the family. Ry stopped talking to me completely, but Bridget did not. She and I kept meeting up once a week for a gym date, where we would do group fitness classes together like “Body Works Plus Abs” and yoga. We did this for months. Each time, we’d do the familiar catch-up game; I’d try not to press for details about my ex while remaining interested in how things were going back at “home”. She usually asked about my internship and work. All was good.

Around March, Bridget started canceling our weekly meetups; first, because she was sick (understandable—so was I), and then for other reasons like double-booking herself, concerts, not feeling like going, etc. I canceled once because of a running-related injury.

She canceled every week for about two months before I messaged her one day to let her know that it seemed like our regular day wasn’t working anymore, and that I would understand if she wanted to relieve herself of the weekly commitment and perhaps schedule a coffee date sometime soon. She responded, “Okay, I totally agree!” A few weeks later, I messaged her to let her know I’d be attending a yoga class with another friend at the gym right down the street from “home,” and that she was invited to join. She told me she’d let me know; I haven’t heard from her since.

Yoga has remained steady and true in my life for most of the past 9 months, despite the disappointment I’ve felt in losing a friend a workout partner. I’m under the impression that she has ghosted me, though I’m not sure why. I suppose it doesn’t really matter. In all the trials and triumphs of my journey through sobriety so far, I’ve learned the value in holding on and persisting where it counts, but I’ve also learned the importance of being able to let go.

Let go: a concept we chew on, a mantra we repeat, a meditation we cherish, a demand we make of ourselves and our hearts and our souls. Through both yoga and sobriety, I’ve come to understand “let go” as less of a command, and more of a gentle prodding. Because it isn’t that easy, of course. We know there are things that are damn hard to let go of. We know there are things that have buried themselves deep in our psyches, things that cannot be whisked away through a mindfulness or deep breathing exercise.

We know. I know. Letting go is important and abstract and yet it’s a completely loaded concept that, ironically, wants to help make life feel less loaded. I know, and still, I struggle sometimes.

So how, then, do we do it? The loss of Bridget as a friend—and, quite honestly, as my last connection to that “home”—felt like a blow, even though I was the one who initiated the letting go by telling her it was OK. I gave her the “out”, and she took it. I think part of me was hoping she’d protest a bit, maybe show some desire to hold on. But she didn’t. I don’t know that I can blame her for it. Whatever her reasoning for pulling away from our friendship, there came a point where it seemed apparent that there was little desire to continue on.

She pulled away, I pulled away, we decided to let go, and it was done.

Like I said, I do a lot of yoga these days. For a long while, I went on my own. On Fridays (typically my craziest day at the internship), I’d show up to class praying for some kind of mental release. Often, I’d cry right there on the mat; sometimes that would help and I’d walk away feeling invigorated, and other days I left more frustrated than I came in.

Recently, I convinced one of my best friends—another sober woman who I’ve known for 13 years now—to join me for yoga. She was resistant. She hated the idea of having no solid goals, no true milestones to indicate progress, no ruling stick to measure herself against. I gently encouraged her to open her mind to the idea of setting the rules for herself, and told her that I didn’t want to make her feel forced to show up.

She joined me and, after our first class together, looked at me with surprise in her eyes and said, “that was amazing.” In some small way, she let go of her own ideas about what yoga is supposed to be: how it’s supposed to look, what you’re supposed to get out of it, and how you’re supposed to react to the difficult poses like Bird of Paradise and Side Crow. These days, she’ll often text me first, asking about our next class together. Over Memorial Day Weekend, we went camping with a few other friends and did our own Sun Salutation flow right there next to our tents.

I think it might be a little cliche to say I had to let go of my relationship with Bridget in order to usher in this new wonderful connection I have with an already wonderful friend, but it’s not far from the truth. As in sobriety, there are things that we hold onto, often for a bit too long, because we feel like eventually the tides will turn again in our favor and return us to some happier time. Whether these things are relationships, friendships, alcohol, thought patterns, behaviors, jobs, ideas, whatever—it doesn’t matter. What matters is being aware of what no longer serves you (or worse, what drains or hurts you) and being willing to let go. Say goodbye, as gently or forcibly as is necessary.

With Bridget, it sucks to lose a friend, but it sucks even more to feel like the friendship is floating in uncertain territory.

With alcohol, it’s scary to walk away from a trusted security blanket that protects us from our own intensity and emotions, but the devastation it causes is far scarier and far worse.

With yoga, it’s frustrating to join a class expecting to move fluidly only to find yourself unable to do the most basic back bend without pain, but it’s far more frustrating to sit there berating yourself and telling yourself you ought to do better.

I know. You know. We know. Letting go is important and enlightening and hard. It’s not always accessible to us. Sometimes, the last thing we’re able to do is just “let it go”. That’s ok.

With that occasional inability to free our minds of such bonds, we shouldn’t panic or berate ourselves. We shouldn’t let ourselves believe that we’re just doomed to be this way or that. As with many things, the act of letting go is a perpetual renewal of an idea—a new commitment every day, like sobriety—rather than some static thing we can measure or quantify.

The best we can do is make it a practice to trust in the process of trusting ourselves while we work to regain balance. Trust in the process of letting go as a non-linear, non-time-sensitive thing. Trust that the letting go will happen when it needs to.

In sobriety. In yoga. In life. Over and over and over again.

❤ Em

One thought on “Yoga, Sobriety & Letting Go

  1. Liam McMillan says:

    I can really relate to the concept of ‘letting go’ you describe. Sometimes I suddenly realise that I’m giving myself a hard time for not being able to let go, and subsequently realising how inherently counter intuitive that way of thinking is!

    Liked by 1 person

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