How Yoga helped me recover from domestic violence
"Why didn't you just leave as soon as the abuse started?" a question asked too often when someone has just left an abusive relationship.
Everyone has different reasons why it took as long to leave as it did. For me I wanted to know I had tried everything to make it work and after multiple relationship counselors, parenting courses and anger management courses undertaken by my then partner and I did one myself as he said I also had anger issues. It was then I realised I had two choices, to continue on and lie in the bed I made with constant criticism, put downs, my son being physically harmed by harsh discipline, my daughter being a witness to her brother and me being abused. Or two, to break the ties and be a single mum to two kids with different dads.
At the end of the day I was scared to just leave because I did not know what reaction this would get. After having been told months into the relationship that my then new partner had committed crimes and come close to attempted murders, I was frightened what he would do if we just left. The house was overwhelming with where to start if I left and I had no way to ask him to just leave. In the end I approached it in counselling that he would be happier if we separated and we both agreed we would permanently separate and attempt to remain friends.
A month after separation he moved out and stayed with friends. It was only then when I received my first weekly pay that I realised the hold I had been under. I went to the grocery shop and was like a child in a candy store, I was free to buy whatever I wanted for our groceries. While in the relationship I was not allowed to go shopping without my partner present or a strict set of items I was to buy under his instruction, this was because I was not capable of purchasing the right things without wasting "his" money.
It took until 9mths post separation to realize the breast reduction and lift I fully believed I needed and wanted had not stemmed from my own beliefs but had grown from years of being body shamed. The moment I was able to stare at my reflection in the mirror and truly love my breasts was when I realized I had let go of someone else's ideals that were put onto me.
The year after separation I decided to study a one year diploma in yoga. I was always told we could not afford for me to study while we were together. It was hard work with two children, one full time in my care and one majority time. I was grateful my mum helped lots with school pick ups and looking after one or both children to allow we to get to my classes.
I set out to learn how to be a yoga teacher because I loved yoga. What I came away with was something I wasn't expecting. Throughout the one year of study, court also began with my ex partner. I learnt that it was not just what my ex had said and done to me that effected me but my own self belief or lack there of that kept me from moving past the negative self thoughts.
Through practicing yoga Asana (physical postures), pranayama (breathing practices) yoga dhyana (meditation practice) & learning chanting in sanskrit, I discovered new ways to grow my self esteem and begin to love myself for who I am and how I am in the now.
When I realised the only option to allow my children to live happily was to leave their dad, I realised I couldn't simply just leave. Why is this? I had been worn down slowly over the years to believe I was incapable of doing anything on my own, I was even told I was no good at work I did before the relationship. I believed I was useless at everything I attempted to do, would never cope on my own, I believed I needed my then partner to help me with the work I had a degree in! Everyday was full of harsh criticisms, in the early days these were body shaming comments, a year later they moved into attacking my skills and talents and then my work. By the end of the relationship I truly believed I was overweight, ageing, had an out of proportioned body that only a breast reduction would cure and didn't think I would ever meet someone else if we broke up. I did not want to be a single mother to two children with different dads.
What changed? I attended a number of courses through Inner City Women's Group - Irate Women, an anger management course where I learnt I did not have that many anger issues and was more angry at being abused. I was recommended three great books; 'Why Does He Do That?' and 'Should I Stay or Should I Go?' both by Lundy Bancroft and 'The Verbally Abusive Relationship' by Patricia Evans. Reading these books was like reading my life. The only answer was the relationship HAD TO END. There was no other choice. By the end of my second 8 week course, Breaking the Cycle, I had brought up in relationship counselling that my partner would be happier if we ended, so we decided to end and a month later he moved out.
Six months later I decided to finally get my Yoga Diploma through a one year intensive course at Wellpark College. I really loved yoga and wanted to be able to teach it. One year intensive was what I needed to feel immersed in the traditions and then be able to teach what I learnt. What I did not go in realising was that I would transform through the self practices.
While studying my yoga diploma my young daughter still had to have contact with my ex partner, her father. Towards the end of the year court processes started and this is where my yoga practices helped me a lot. I learnt to be strong emotionally and physically, my body was becoming stronger which helped my mind stay strong and focused. I learnt to breathe before reacting to triggers from my ex partner. I gave time to myself and I allowed myself to cry when I needed to and live in each moment as I needed to process each moment.
Yoga helped me let go of the things I could not change while maintaining my strength to stand up for myself and my children. My own personal belief is that we do need to let go of negativity and past holds on us but this does not mean that we forget and become best friends with those that have hurt us or people close to us. We become strong enough to set our own boundaries, let go of the negativity to allow ourselves to heal. Instead of holding onto negative energy towards those that have hurt us or our loved ones and instead of remaining friends with them I have learnt to place them in an imaginary circle, we are in the centre of the circle and they are in the outer most circle, this is especially good for anyone that still has to deal with their ex partner with children involved. I will talk in more detail about how the circles work in my next blog <3