As a yoga instructor, I am constantly trying to figure out how to best help my students liberate themselves from toxic energies and negative emotions. I’ve come to notice that most of the toxicity we absorb is a result of being in unhealthy relationships with partners, friends and family members.
Personally, I have struggled with having to purge all of the above from my life at different points and know that each of these can feel very much like a “break-up.” Whether it is the unexpected demise of a marriage or a negative friend or family member that needs to be removed from your life, yoga can help. Understanding how important it is to keep the channels of positive energy flowing smoothly during a painful period, I designed the following sequence to help recover from a break-up: Clear, Cleanse, Strengthen, Liberate, Celebrate.
1. Clear – Use the most powerful and clearing style of yoga breathing called Lion’s Breath (Simha Pranayama) to release negative emotions like anger, frustration and hostility out of your body. Emotions like these are totally normal to experience in the aftermath of a break-up, so let your body feel what it wants to feel, but when it is time to move forward, your body (and mind!) will let you know. Sitting in a comfortable position like cross-legged or kneeling, empty out your belly with a normal exhale. Then, with your lips closed, take a really big, hearty inhalation, sucking air all the way up into your throat like a vacuum and hold it there for 3 counts. Then open your mouth as wide as you can, stick out your tongue and breathe every last bit of air out making a loud “ha” sound, imitating a lion’s roar. Repeat this 3-300 times, depending on your need. As you breathe in, gather up all those negative emotions surrounding your hurt. As you breathe out, consciously visualize releasing them from your mind, body and soul. In between breaths, have a little laugh at yourself for looking like a lion. Humor is the best medicine!
2. Cleanse – Now that we’ve gotten the surface-level negativity out, let’s dive deep into the energetic level. The belly area is the home of the Solar Plexus Chakra (Manipura Chakra), in which resides our personal power, self-confidence and ability to transform. By getting everything moving around smoothly in this region, we can reconnect with the power that is taken away from us when events unfold in ways we did not anticipate. Belly twists are some of the most detoxifying poses in yoga. Staying in your same seated pose from before, take a big inhale and reach both arms up to the sky, palms touching at the top in a prayer position. As you exhale, your right hand comes down to your left knee and your left hand comes to the base of your spine on the ground behind you. Being gentle with your neck, start to look over your left shoulder, as far as feels comfortable. Use your left hand to press down on your right knee, encouraging a deeper twist that originates in the belly. Feel your internal organs (liver, kidneys, intestines) twisting, literally wringing out the negative junk. With your next inhale, reach your hand up to the sky again. As you exhale, your right hand comes down to your left knee allowing you to twist to the left this time. Keep your spine and neck as lengthened as you can and avoid hunching over. Use your inhales and exhales to guide your movements as you twist right and left as many times as you need.
3. Strengthen – Now that the belly is nice and cleansed, it’s time to strengthen it back up! Throughout the healing process, it is important to keep re-connecting with your internal strength that lies deep within, yet gets buried under weakness and pain. My favorite pose to tap into my inner strength is a basic plank. From downward facing dog, take an inhale and float your chest forward to the top of a push-up or High Plank Pose (Uttihita Chaturanga Dandasana). Let your hips sink down just below your shoulders to really feel the fire in your belly start to heat up. Hold here for 10 long breaths. For more of a challenge, drop down to your forearms and interlace your fingers. Hold here for 10 breaths. If you are feeling really strong and want to take it to the next level, take some alternating hip dips. With an exhale, let your right hip dip down to the right side of your mat, then inhale back to center, then exhale to the left. Alternate right and left for as long as you can. Use this exercise a personal practice in perseverance. Go to your edge and then do two more reps after that. This challenge will remind you that most things life can be overcome with a strong mind…and a strong body doesn’t hurt either!
4. Liberate – After being hurt by someone we love, a common tendency is to close off the heart to future possibilities of pain. Allowing past experiences to dictate your future is a surefire way to end up totally unhappy with your present. The quintessential way to re-open your heart in yoga is through a serious of poses called backbends, designed to liberate the heart space. These poses include: Upward Salute (Urdhva Hastasana), Upward Facing Dog (Urdhva Mukha Svanasana) and Camel (Ustrasana). As you do each of these poses, remember to lengthen towards the ceiling on an inhale and open your heart up on an exhale. For example, standing tall at the top of your mat in Mountain Pose (Tadasana) take a big breath in and reach your arms up to the sky, palms touching at the crest. As you exhale, allow your arms to open up wide, your back starts to bend, your heart reaches up to the sky, your eyes gaze up and eventually back behind you in this powerful, heart-opening Upward Salute pose. Enjoy each pose for 3-5 breaths and remember to relax in between postures in a comfortable seated pose or in Child’s pose.
5. Celebrate – This final series is designed to bring out the beauty and joy of the new YOU you are creating, post break-up. Whatever your favorite pose is, express it here! Whether you feel most free in Monkey pose (Hanumanasana), Dancer’s pose (Natarajasana), upside down in a Headstand (Sirsasana) or doing fun Handstand kick-ups against a wall, enjoy your newfound strength and lightness. Celebrate this transformation in your body, mind and soul, allowing you to float easily into your favorite expression.
Lastly, Smile! Look how radiant you now are, and look how far you’ve come!