After losing her mother her senior year of high school, Natalya Malarczuk shut down her emotions completely to avoid feeling immense grief. She explains how yoga helped her reconnect with her body in order to heal and feel joy again.
I do not consider myself a sad person. I consider myself a complex, deeply feeling individual with more on my plate than I can handle at times. My experiences have given me a unique awareness that most people my age don’t have. However, I have experienced trauma from being unable to process painful experiences as they were happening, and then burying them deep inside.
My trauma stems from the death of my mother, who died from a pulmonary embolism when she was 48. She was my only parent. I had turned 17 that summer and was going into my senior year of high school. Her death was a shock to me. I didn’t know how to react and there was nobody to guide me. So, I moved through the motions of life and started school again like life was normal. I passed familiar faces in the hallways and went to the same locker and made it to all my classes. I was hanging in there, hoping it would get better with time.
When I graduated and began college, I convinced myself I was moving on, but I wasn’t. A year passed and I was stagnant in my healing process. Still, I moved into college, went to my classes, made new friends, just as I was supposed to do. I was barely functioning, but I thought that was enough. At 19, I was diagnosed with Bipolar II and PTSD. I was experiencing manic episodes that were destroying my relationships. I had debilitating depression and as a result, my grades were slipping. Above all, I was disappointed in the person I had become and the life I had created for myself.
During my sophomore year, someone recommended a hot yoga studio. Like with a lot of people, I was always too intimidated to go to a hot yoga class. Although I had done yoga before at my college’s gym, doing a class in 100-degree heat sounded terribly uncomfortable. Conquering these uncomfortable sensations was a big shift for me in my yoga journey. Having nothing to lose except my $25, I decided to challenge myself and sign up for a new student class package. The first time I went was a typical February morning in New York. I woke up with the sun, scraped the ice off my car, and, surprisingly, made it to the studio after traveling on slick, treacherous roads. When I got on my mat, I started fidgeting, wiping the sweat off my neck, wondering how everyone looked so calm knowing they were going to move for an hour in this heat.
Throughout class, I fought uncomfortable feelings. I hated how much I was sweating, the way my clothes clung to my wet body. I was falling out of postures and failing to find the meditative state I was searching for. I wanted it to end because I was so frustrated with myself. I began to feel like I had made a mistake, and that this wasn’t for me.
We ended the class with Savasana. I thought, finally, I can rest. The exhausted relief was transformative for me. For the first time since my mom died, I felt truly awake in my body. I was aware of the sensations pulsing through me. I was amazed that I could be present in my body. Stepping onto my mat that day was one of the biggest challenges I’ve given myself.
Yoga continues to transform me, physically and mentally. I am now able to confront my emotional world. I allow myself to feel my pain and have found the patience to treat myself with much-needed compassion. With the help of my therapist, I began the healing process, bit by bit. I gave my trauma the care and attention it demanded. I began to open up a place that lay dormant for years. Coming to terms with vulnerability was integral to my healing process. Yoga helped me conquer my fear of the uncomfortable and escape the numbness that I thought was keeping me safe.
Trauma, for me, is like a giant bundle of string. There’s an endless amount of loops and knots and I don’t even know where to start. It’s scary and overwhelming. It’s easier to ignore it, but the longer I do that, the harder it becomes to unravel. The string becomes even more tangled and seems even more impossible to untie. Yoga has gifted me with the tools I need to begin to unravel my trauma.
I’m on the path of self-love, but it will be a lifelong journey. I want to be a friend to myself. I am a flawed, multifaceted human being. I’ve felt deep, heart-wrenching loneliness that has impacted the way I developed as a person. There are days where my grief is inescapable. Life isn’t about those moments. It’s not about obtaining an end to suffering or a cure to emotional turmoil. Life is about looking between the dark moments and finding joy.
Yoga has allowed me to find happiness again by transforming me emotionally. It brought me back to my body, grounded me, and comforted me. I learned how to escape my numbness and return to reality, where I can finally find beauty in the present. Now, I know how to cherish the moments of love, laughter, and feeling human. This is a new reality that I never thought was possible.
Read more: yogajournal.com