by Stephanie Rehor
For me, Valentine’s Day has not been the swoon worthy, chocolate devouring, love fest that was once promised. The disappointments began when I was in second grade. The day had finally come for the class Valentine’s Day party and I was going to confess my love to the cutest boy in class. I mustered enough courage to walk up to him and gave him, what I thought to be, quite the romantic note. Trembling, I watched as he read it. I waited for a reaction but he just kept staring at the letter. Time seemingly stood still …. until he ran to his friends to show them my love note. Mortified, I watched as his friends passed it around. Then, the love of my life and a crew of second grade boys began to laugh and point at me. They teased me about the letter for the remainder of the class and I cried in the car the whole way home. I was heartbroken. This was my first experience with Valentine’s Day and heartbreak. Yoga would come in later, after many more heart and gut wrenching experiences similar to this one.
Since then, I’ve dealt with a series of Valentine’s Day disasters. Everything from my boyfriend forgetting to call to being stood up by a potential love interest. I was jaded about Valentine’s Day. Despite all of the other heartbreak in my life I made the decision years ago to reframe how I felt about this holiday. Now, I see Valentine’s Day as an opportunity to fully celebrate and embrace love of all kinds and to honor all the love I have in my life – romantic or otherwise.
Getting here has not been easy and had taken a lot of spiritual work, including a ton of yoga. When discussing heartbreak and yoga, the science nerd in me wants to talk about the stress response that comes with break ups and how yoga has a calming effect on the nervous system. The truth is, heartbreak is not mechanical, it is experiential and emotional. It is something that digs deep into our wounds, traumas and triggers. Depending on the situation we can find ourselves questioning our own worth. I can’t say how many times heartbreak has had me in front of the mirror looking at the person I know and love more than anyone in the world and asking, ‘“am I good enough?” Or, “do I even deserve love?”
In a way, heartbreak is a type of small death that we experience in this life. It can feel like that person is truly gone. It can feel like they’ve actually died and even worse, that a part of our soul has died with them. There is a destruction that comes with heartbreak, a complete unraveling, a crumbling of everything we thought we knew. Suddenly, nothing makes sense. Our emotions start to flow through us as we go through the grieving process. We can feel everything from sadness to rage and back again. Heartbreak can devastate to that point that we start to question our very existence. This is where the yoga comes in.
Whether we like it or not, getting to our shadow place is imperative for healing. When we are in touch with our shadow side our wounds become much more visible. When I go through these painful moments of loss and heartbreak I will ask that this experience not be taken from me but instead that I may change my perspective about it. This starts with how I deal with my emotions.
Practicing yoga is important during heavily emotional times because it allows us the space to feel. Yogic teachings guide us to feel everything, even and especially emotions we don’t “like,” without judgment. Feeling this pain instead of blocking it allows emotions to flow through then out of the body, rather than becoming lodged in the body. When we stuff our emotions they get lodged in the body then manifest in unsavory ways such as tension, stress and, even worse, disease. Emotions can become teachers if we take a close look and ask the question …. “what am I supposed to learn and how can I grow?”
Yoga helps us come to that insightful place where we can observe, rather than react to the situation at hand. The lesson may not come right away, but getting hurt and processing the pain can teach us how to find real love — love for the Self — and hopefully forgiveness for those who hurt us.
Self reflection and disciplined practice have given me the ability to have gratitude for my lessons in heartbreak as much as those lessons hurt. The people who broke my heart showed me where I needed healing. Even my second grade Valentine who rejected me …. he may have led me to lead an examined life …. and to practice yoga, the greatest gift of all.