Trust in the Process – How Yoga Helps us Process Life

My shoulders have always been tight, but recently, they’ve gotten worse. Now they are really tight and seem to be crying out for my attention: “We’re carrying the weight of your world and we can’t take it any longer!”

I’m going through a divorce, and truthfully, it sucks. While the optimist in me has uncovered some positive consequences of being suddenly single, the reality is that I’ve found myself living a strange new normal, full of devastating heartbreak and paralyzing fear, resulting in sleepless nights and yes, tight shoulders. Thrust into a disturbing world of constant conflict and divorce lawyers, I’m scrambling to find a decent, affordable place to live, and grasping to find a way to pay my bills.

However, as George Bernard Shaw said, “Life isn’t about finding yourself. It’s about creating yourself.” So, I’m creating a brand new life… a new business, a new support system, and eventually, a place in my heart for a new relationship. I know I will succeed. But in the interim, the vacuum of uncertainty has left mounds of additional stress, painful introspection, apprehension and worry, because here’s the brutal truth: Recreating yourself at 48 is hard work.

Restless nights have turned into yoga-less days that have rolled into yoga-less weeks. Lack of time and energy, numerous part-time jobs, and difficulty prioritizing (a myriad of legitimate excuses) have made a stranger of downward facing dog. What was once a sacred, enjoyable, non-negotiable part of my life has become nearly obsolete. My unexpected divorce, an erratic yoga practice and long hours on my laptop have left my body in pain and riddled with grief.

One recent Saturday morning I was determined to make it to a yoga class. The focus of the class turned out to be shoulder openers. “Excellent,” I said to myself as we eased into the first sun salutations. “My shoulders are so tight, this will feel great.” What it felt like was being hit by a tsunami! Within the first five minutes of class, I was fighting back the tears. Shoulder opener after shoulder opener caused a torrent of tears to rain onto my yoga mat. Too much had been held in for too long. Wave after wave of sorrow surged through my body as the tension and tightness that had been residing in my shoulders was set free. All I could think was, “Seriously? It’s been 18 months since my husband left me, why is this happening now?”

Apparently, my loyal 20 minutes on my meditation cushion had kept me from acting like a crazy lady, yet it was doing nothing for the grief that had stealthily hijacked my body.

At one point I was so near hysteria, I actually had to leave the room. I returned, somewhat composed, and mercifully, class was over. We sat in meditation. It felt so sweet. After all, the point of a physical yoga practice is not to give you sculpted triceps and a yoga butt (whatever that is), but to prepare the body and mind for meditation. Propped up on a blanket, legs crossed and eyes closed, I dropped in. It was blissful… for about thirty seconds. Then, another storm came, thankfully, no more hysterical sobbing, but just a slow steady downpour. Tears rolled down my face as I suddenly got it. How could I have been so stupid? I know better, I’m a yoga teacher.

For the past 18 months, I have been hiding from my grief, which in turn has been hiding in my shoulders. At this point in yoga class, however, during meditation, I actually experienced the presence of grief in my chest. I didn’t feel something wash over my heart center, as flowery yoga speak might describe, but I felt and saw a dense, three-dimensional, black mass spreading across my entire torso and I knew instantly what it was. Grief had become my chest; it actually occupied my entire thoracic region. I could sense every ounce of what felt and looked like three tons of sorrow. It was as if my pain and heartache walked right up, stuck out a hand and forced itself upon me like some sort of grief Grim Reaper, “Hello Lisa, I am your pain and your sorrow. You can run from me, but you no longer can hide.” I sat and I cried. After class, I hid in the bathroom and cried. I cried the rest of the day. I sat at a girlfriend’s kitchen table that night and cried into the glass of wine she humanely offered. I was crying when I woke the next morning, only to cry through my meditation practice. The gates had been opened.

Yoga is sometimes said to be the union of body and mind. All of the grief from the past 18 months: the abandonment, fear, heartbreak, anger, all of these dark emotions and more had set up shop in my body, because what we think with our heads and feel with our hearts gets absorbed by our physical being. When we practice yoga, we stretch and move and keep the energy, or prana flowing. It keeps us from getting stiff from physical activity and prevents emotions from settling in and manifesting themselves as bodily tension. Yoga helps us process life.

My meditation practice had enabled me to keep grief from overtaking my mind, but there it was, present and demanding to be accounted for, in my shoulders. What I learned that Saturday is that we can’t just tend to one part and turn a cheek to the rest. We are not dualistic creatures. We must care for both our bodies and our minds.

I’m still crying, but now I know why. It’s because even though I’m moving forward, I’m still scared and I’m still sad. But I know that if I make the time to roll out my mat and practice my yoga, it will help me look Mr. Grief in the eye and say, “Not these shoulders, buddy. ”

Photo courtesy of Glori Berkel,

This article was published by Elephant Journal as Moving Through Grief with an Open Heart.

20 Responses to Trust in the Process – How Yoga Helps us Process Life

  1. Patti January 29, 2015 at 2:12 pm #

    Lisa that is so beautifully written and shared. I know that feeling of shoving things away, losing your connection to the practice and pretending that it is all getting worked out and handled only to find it there waiting to surface. It takes a lot of energy and trust and endurance to move forward but you are doing it with grace and compassion and awareness. I look forward to watching your bright future continue to unfold. xo

    • Lisa January 29, 2015 at 2:59 pm #

      Thanks, Patti:)

  2. Glori January 29, 2015 at 2:54 pm #

    Wow Lisa, what a beautiful article. You are one of the strongest people I know and knowing you, you’ll come out the other end even stronger!

    • Lisa January 29, 2015 at 2:59 pm #

      Thank you Glori:)

  3. Loshie January 29, 2015 at 4:57 pm #

    Soooo beautifully written! Brought tears to my eyes, sympathetic pain to my shoulders and a bit of sinking to my gut. I wish I could wipe it all away for you.

    But it seems that with this breakthrough, I think you are close to coming out the other side. Relieved to hear you’ve rediscovered your mat. It will get better – it will, it will!

    Sending you love and huge shoulder squeezing hugs!

    • Lisa January 30, 2015 at 8:53 am #

      Thanks, Loshie. Feel your support, and I have all of my fond memories of time on the mat with you to propel me along! Yes, the light at the end of the tunnel is definitely shining brighter! xx

  4. Sally January 30, 2015 at 12:33 pm #

    Oh Lisa, I know this life transition is so difficult. I am going through it too. Friends, family, talking, walking, exploring new things and people and taking care of yourself is the way to progress! I can tell you know that. I met you years ago at the Cellar Rat (when I too was married). I hope our paths link up again. I always liked your cooking videos! Take good care and keep me on your mailing list!!

  5. Lucy January 30, 2015 at 1:55 pm #

    Best piece yet. Beautiful, wise & real. As hard as I have no doubt that this whole process is, I’ve also got no doubt that it’s maker you a better person – soft, wise and accessible. Love you xx

  6. Lucy January 30, 2015 at 1:56 pm #

    Best piece yet. Beautiful, wise & real. As hard as I have no doubt that this whole process is, I’ve also got no doubt that it’s making you a better person – soft, wise and accessible. Love you xx

  7. Kelli Austin January 30, 2015 at 3:02 pm #

    Very well written Lisa…I FELT that. I found myself nodding and saying, “Yes!” throughout that read. Every day I try to educate patients about the physical effect of emotions on their body. Maybe I should just refer them to your blog instead.

    BTW, I LOVE the new hair. It’s an external transformation to match the internal transformation. You really are becoming an all new, and completely authentic, version of YOU.

    Peace to you. You have my complete support.

  8. marg January 30, 2015 at 10:10 pm #

    Lisa ..we learn many things thew adversity and you are walking threw the fire and coming out forged with your own power, strength and character. I have faith in your strength.

    • Lisa January 31, 2015 at 1:54 pm #

      Thank you Margie. You speak from experience, I know. Lots of love. xx

  9. Brenda January 31, 2015 at 10:22 am #

    I’ve watched you go through this challenge with grace, dignity, strength and smiles. You are a joy and a blessing to me and so many.

    I sense that you have now come through to the other side of this even brighter, wiser and with so much more to give and share with your students, friends and blogger community (if that is even possible).

    You never know what is going to trigger those last buckets, barrels, truckloads of tears but from personal experience they serve as a healing compound for those old wounds and to put a period on that chapter of your life so you can go forth and glisten in the world with new sparkles.

    Sparkle on. I’m so proud to know you and see this magnificent woman, Lisa Murphy, rise to share her voice and gifts with the world in a big, big way.

    • Lisa January 31, 2015 at 1:50 pm #

      Thank you so much for the kind words, Brenda. I believe it was you who gave me sage advice, over a bowl of steaming curry at Lulu’s – write! It has helped.

  10. Liz Walsh January 31, 2015 at 2:43 pm #

    Dear Lisa, your recent life events were unknown to me…tho at some level for awhile I have sensed tremendous transformation afoot in your life. I guess we all are really connected aren’t we? :) Your writing is brutally Beautiful…..honest and heartfelt. From my heart to yours, May you be supported with as much ease and grace as possible during this life transition. I know you to have a big, warm heart that offers compassion and understanding. I know you to have a good mind that seeks balance and beauty. You so generously offered love and support when I was undergoing huge shifts in my life. I will always be grateful to you for that gift. I am certain your strength, wisdom, and higher Self will continue to guide you as you move forward to new opportunities, adventures, and love. Much love to you!

  11. Connie Remetch February 4, 2015 at 7:30 am #

    Lisa, thanks for sharing so cogently & with such heart and courage.

    • Lisa February 5, 2015 at 8:46 pm #

      Thanks for reading and for your comment, Connie.

  12. Aifric August 20, 2015 at 2:44 am #

    Hi Lisa, I was very touched by your article and felt the need to get in touch with you again. It is because of you that I love yoga, I miss your yoga and no one
    compares!! I am still in Dubai I do yoga myself in the gym but have given up on classes as I can’t find anyone as good as you!! I can still hear your calming voice and just want you to know how much I miss your classes. Stay strong keep busy and never give up!! Thinking of you and missing you out here in hot Dubai. Take care of yourself you make a difference keep going!!

    • Lisa August 24, 2015 at 4:19 pm #

      Aifric! So nice to hear from you. I am so happy I have been able in whatever small way, to contribute to your love of yoga. Our classes at the Aviation Club were pretty awesome, weren’t they?! :) I made so many good friends there. Thank you for your kind words, and I do get back to Dubai ever so often, so stay tuned! It would be lovely to see you. Keep practicing! xxx

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