“Go to yoga. Please. Stop packing and making lists and just get out of the house and go to yoga. Promise me.”
That was the nicest (and possibly the most important) thing my last ex told me.
…while I was moving out of his house.
…leaving behind everything I’d tried to build for two years while also considering the basic point of existence.
I was at the start of my yoga teacher training, so I had access to cheap classes at the studio in Minneapolis. I called the studio and I, through an embarrassingly large amount of sobs, asked the manager which class I should take if I feel like everything is falling apart and I just need to rest for a minute. She suggested a yin class, taught by Michelle Pietrzak-Wegner.
I had no idea what yin meant, but I got in my car and turned the key, beginning my 45-minute drive to “the cities” from where I lived – in the small, quirky town of River Falls, Wisconsin.
I was covered in snot and tears, even though I had just showered.
As I drove, my mother had called and left a message. I’d hope she’d said something encouraging about my upcoming Giant Life Change, so I called my voicemail and listened.
“I know you’re going through a really hard time and you probably don’t feel like talking right now, but I don’t want you to go through this thinking we kept important things from you…”
She went on to tell me that my little brother – a 20-year-old marine fighting in Afghanistan – had “had some problems” and was now in Germany awaiting evaluation. Out of respect for my brother and his privacy, I’m not going to give you details, but it’s probably as bad as you think it is. (He’s safe in Northern Minnesota now and has a beautiful puppy named Daisy).
In response to this news, I pulled over on I-94, somewhere between St. Paul and Minneapolis, and properly lost my shit. All of the fluids were coming out of all the holes in my face and I could not breathe or understand why the fuck this shit was happening to me or how the hell I was going to live through it.
Then I remembered: “Go to yoga.”
Those darn ex-boyfriends and their valuable insight.
When I arrived, I sat in my car and smoked a cigarette in the way I imagine rich men smoke fancy cigars – examining the cherry after each rich inhale and releasing the smoke in a thin, slow exhale. I realized I hadn’t eaten in a day or two. I shook my head to forget this thought and flicked the half-smoked butt out the window. Grabbing my mat from the passenger seat, I got out of my car, locked it and walked toward the studio.
It would be easier to just go have a few cocktails, I thought. Maybe I could just get really drunk for a minute.
“Go to yoga.”
I walked into the studio and saw Michelle adjusting the volume on the music. I was her first student of the day and I had somehow managed to calm down enough to speak clearly to her.
“I know this is probably TMI, but I feel like you should know what you’re working with,” I said, speaking mostly to the floor.
She smiled and gave me all of her attention.
“My relationship with my boyfriend just ended. I’m moving out this week and it sucks. My brother, a marine, also just went through some fucked up shit and,” my throat tightened, “I feel like I don’t know which way is up.”
Michelle took my hand and transferred a long, dark worry stone from her palm, into mine. It was warm.
“I want you to use this today. Just hold on to it until you don’t want to anymore. And from here on out, no matter who walks into this room, this class is for you. If something doesn’t feel good or you don’t feel safe, look up at me and I’ll put you in something else.”
For the next 90 minutes, I got lost. I held each nourishing pose. I heard my deep, resonating breath. I felt so safe and cradled. This feeling was foreign but so needed and welcomed.
When class ended, I felt lighter. I knew my shit was still pretty fucked – but I still felt lighter – like this was maybe exactly where I was supposed to be.
Up until this point, I wasn’t sure I wanted to be a yoga teacher. I enrolled in the teacher training on the promise that it would simply enrich my practice, but I wasn’t sure I’d actually get in front of a room and teach it.
Thanks to Michelle and the space she held, I knew I had to figure out how to give that to as many people as possible during my short time on this planet. It would be the only way I felt I held value.