Yoga + Grief

I sit on the cold tile floor of my yoga studio’s bathroom, hugging my knees to my chest as I rock back and forth and sob. The pain is deep but not anguishing. The desire to call her, to hear her voice again, is overwhelming.

The yoga class I’ve just come out of was a special one, led by the studio’s owner Lauren who radiates warmth and comfort. It’s a healing class, with chants of om shanti and live sitar music and lots of hip openers. The impetus for this class’s creation was to inspire peace and healing after the nauseating election that took place a few weeks ago. New Yorkers are certainly rattled from the results, and the city has been on edge since November 8th.

I was there to heal too, but not so much from the election. To be quite honest, the election outcome did not surprise or upset me as much as it should have. The world stopped making sense at the end of October so of course a racist, sexist, orange bully would be elected as president. My trust in the expected flow of things had been shattered. The world had already become uncertain and unsafe before the votes were in. This election simply confirmed what I already knew. I was there to heal from the loss that dominates all my other pain — the loss of someone so precious to me that my heart cramps up when I picture her face.

I used to love savasana, the final resting pose in a yoga sequence. My body, deliciously exhausted, would sink into the floor. I’d feel the steadiness of the earth holding me up. I’d feel my breath running through each limb and organ, purifying me. I’d let my mind float away on gentle ocean waves.

But now I dread this ultimate relaxation. When my bones and muscles release, my brain opens up a floodgate and the thoughts come gushing in. Bittersweet memories, gruesome images that my brain created, self-chastising thoughts, and longings for a future we no longer have. The tears stream down my cheeks onto my beat-up purple mat.

Sometimes I can cry in silence. This savasana, in an incense-filled room, the grief becomes more violent. Suddenly her boyfriend’s voice is in my head, telling me what happened. His words are so vivid that my body re-lives the shock of finding out and I jerk forward on my mat, my knees coming to my chest, gasping for breath. The rest of the class is silently resting in their corpse poses.

After the closing om shanti, I huddle in the bathroom a bit and then go out to the lobby. As I’m struggling to on pull my Hunter boots on I start crying again. My friend Jordan is there, pulling me into her arms. And then she is replaced by Lauren, holding me and looking at me with her deep, wise eyes. She knows. She’s lost a sister too.

I want to talk. I need to talk — I need people to know. There are so many assumptions that surround suicide. Even though I’m making a lot of these assumptions myself. It was impulsive, she could have been stopped, she wanted him to reach her in time. I have no way of knowing this but I hear myself say it anyway. I hear myself referencing stats about how many suicides are impulsive and the decreased likelihood of trying a second time. I don’t even know if they’re true; I’d read them in some blog earlier that day.

My voice has a desperate whine to it as I talk. I’m painting a picture, the picture I want everyone to see of my sister. She wasn’t a sad, depressed soul. She was beautiful and energetic and had a ton of friends and a lust for life. DO NOT stereotype her as a suicider.

But it’s me who holds that stereotype. I’ve never known anyone who took their own life, except for this one kid in college who was withdrawn and maybe a druggie. My sister was not like that. I can’t bear to have people think of her as a failure at life, as a sad person who just couldn’t handle it. She was more alive and stronger than anyone I’ve ever known.

I feel relieved after my cry and my talk with Lauren. The wave passed and I’m treading the calm waters for now. And then I feel embarrassed, as I always do when I’ve spilled open too much without enough thought behind it. Like the morning after a night of drinking, when I rack my brain for all the things I said without inhibitions, categorizing the levels of stupidity.

Even in my grief, my social anxiety rages on.