On Christmas Eve 2004, my 31-year-old boyfriend was diagnosed with liver cancer. That January, I dropped out of university to become his caregiver. After six months of doctors, hospitals, surgeries, and alternative therapies, he lost his battle.
I felt like I lost mine.
That was the same year that my mom (the textbook definition of "soccer mom") was thrown into a Costa Rican jail for overstaying her visa and having an expired passport. The reason? My super mom had become so severely addicted to alcohol and crack cocaine that things like visas and passports didn’t matter to her. That year, I travelled to Costa Rica twice in a desperate attempt to do something. She was later deported. A few months after she returned home, she took her own life.
My heart was broken.
I felt like my chest was being cracked open and stepped on by an elephant. I couldn't catch my breath. One day, on a routine visit to my doctor, I found out that my figurative broken heart had manifested into an actual broken heart. I had developed an arrhythmia that my cardiologist told me could only be healed with beta-blockers and eventual surgery, which I refused.
I knew deep down that overwhelming grief was causing my problem.
I began a regular specialized yoga practice that focused on opening up my heart so that I could heal. At first, it was excruciating — emotionally, I mean. I would put myself into a heart-opening pose and only be able to sit with it for several seconds before I needed to get out. I was gentle on myself. I was kind. I told myself to breathe and gave myself permission to release and move into Child’s Pose when it felt like too much.
Slowly, over time, it got easier. I was able to hold each pose for longer. The anxiety gradually began to subside, and simultaneously my heart began to feel better and began to beat more regularly.
I'm happy to report that the last time I visited my cardiologist he said, “Whatever you are doing, keep doing it. You don’t have to come back to me unless you feel something irregular!” It’s been four years. Thanks to yoga and my favorite heart opening poses, I haven’t been back since.
If you want to cure your own broken heart, I invite you to try these potent heart openers: Camel Pose and Heart Bed.
On days when you're feeling stronger (as this one can be an intense release) a variation of Camel Pose is great. On the days when you need a little more love, Heart Bed provides a gentle release.
Choose the pose that works for you, and breathe into your open heart-space. To do this, with each inhale create space and room for healing. With each exhale, release anything in the way. After completion, allow yourself to move into Child’s Pose to calm your nervous system and retrain your unconscious mind to know that it is safe to open your heart. Be gentle on yourself. Be kind. Healing is a process. You are doing a beautiful job.