On Yoga and Surrender to Love, Fear, and Loss

And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom”  -Anais Nin  

It was a very, very, very faint positive line.

After a year of trying to get pregnant, could it actually be true?

I shared the news with my husband, and my heart was full - I’m pregnant!  Holy shit! A blood test confirmed: I’m 37 and for the first time in my life, I am finally pregnant! The nurse told me to come back in in a few days for more blood work, this time to assess the health of my pregnancy.

This time, the news was not good. The pregnancy hormone should be on the rise – mine wasn’t. More blood drawn, now confirmed the doctor’s suspicion. He told me, “This is not a healthy pregnancy…”

Tears swelled. Anxiety and worry set in where love and excitement once lived. The doctor was convinced I would miscarry - but until then? There were many things during those weeks I wouldn’t allow myself to do … like share my heartache with family and friends (what would I say?) or allow myself to get attached to a life I knew would only be taken. And so, a mixture of denial, hope, fear, anger, and sadness enveloped me and I began to spiral down into a silent, lonely hell.

What I did allow myself to do - was practice.

Now, I know both Saraswati and Guruji have recommended that women not practice asana at all during their first trimester of pregnancy. But as anxiety and depression set in, I realized that yoga practice was exactly what I needed - first trimester of pregnancy or not.

So when my body and soul felt strong enough, I rolled out my mat. Some days, thanks to fatigue and nausea, I would only make it through the standing sequence, while other days, I enjoyed a longer and fuller practice, modifying when necessary. And when I really needed my practice to hold me, a modified primary provided that healing love.

Truth is, I thought that I would break down and lose my shit on the mat each time I stepped upon it. But the opposite occurred. The worry and angst, the fear and pain eased with each movement and breath.  My mind found solace on the mat.  

Yoga citta vritti nirodah  || Yoga is the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind.   

Yoga is our natural state of being in which we no longer identify ourselves with the body and mind; through yoga we see our true Self, which is infinite and present within all beings and the universe.

I practiced, and peace came. 

I practiced, and strength came. 

I practiced, and one day, surrender came.

We talk a lot in yoga about “surrender” on the mat; surrender to what your teacher is telling you to do, surrender to the state of pose, surrender to touch or assistance, surrender to the challenge that encompasses you. 

Yes, yoga can take you to your physical and mental edge until you are forced to surrender to the fear or pain you may be experiencing.  I have been there … terrified of trying a pose, forced to surrender to my teacher’s instruction and touch. The practice of the eight-limbed yoga indeed helps to guide us onto the path of surrender. 

But then the time comes to do it in real life … surrendering now, with stakes so much higher, the act of letting go takes on all new meaning.

Isvara pranidhanad-va || Samadhi is attained by devotion with total dedication to God. 

Surrender is a devotion to something higher than yourself.  It requires complete trust, an open heart, and a release of the ego. The great sage Ramakrishna once said, “Complete surrender is like falling from a tall tree without flinching a muscle.” 

Oh believe me, from the moment I found out I “might” lose this pregnancy, I held onto that tree branch soaring high above the ground for dear life. In fact, I wrapped my whole body around it. 

But through my yoga practice, the quieting of my mind, I realized I needed the love and support of my friends and family. Still two hands on the branch, I at least weakened my grip and trusted my fragile secret with those closest to me, realizing I didn’t need to go through this alone. It was not weakness to seek the love and support of others. Surrendering to their love was strength.

Next I would surrender my fear … my fear of losing this baby, the fear of disappointing my husband and his family, of not being able to get pregnant again, of pain, of being to old to bear a child, and the fear of anything scary the future might hold. And as my breasts swelled with soreness and nausea set in, one hand slipped from the tree branch.

I hung there suspended, looking up at my tired working arm, and looking down to the now inviting ground.  I had let go of the fear and enjoyed a week of feeling truly pregnant and celebrating in that. 

In the end, the doctor didn’t need to tell me what I already knew. I looked down at that ground again and I finally let go, surrendering to my grief. At 8 weeks, our baby, whose heart beat for only a short week, had died. Though I still cried when delivered the final answer, I was at peace. I had already let go, released, hit the ground unflinching, surrendered to my sadness and suffered less as a result.

But letting go isn’t something we do once. This time, it would be fear of surgery that left me clinging to the hope I could miscarry naturally. Two long weeks I waited until I finally allowed myself to wait no longer. I would have a D&C (surgical procedure to remove the fetal tissue from the uterus).  The day before my scheduled surgery, I woke up early and joined my students in the Mysore classroom at The Shala. I practiced the primary series, Yoga Chikitsa(Therapy), to soothe my anxious and tired soul. Calm set in immediately. I knew I could move on from this dark place and time, move back into the light and celebrate love and life again with hope and light in our lives. I was ready.

Ironically, once I totally surrendered, the universe granted me my wish: to miscarry naturally. It was far more physically painful and a longer process than the surgery would have been, but it was also very cathartic. For the first time in 6 weeks, I was the happiest I had ever been.

I am sharing my story because every journey we walk in life is a learning process and helps us grow. For me, a meticulous control freak, this was a lesson that it is okay to need support of loved ones. It was a lesson in the power of surrender – especially in the face of fear. But really I’m sharing my story so someone else might now, you’re not alone.

Whatever we are experiencing as part of our lives now, one day we will be parted from it.  So don’t just pass the time.  Practice spiritual cultivation.  Take this parting, this separation and loss as your object of contemplation right now in the present, until you are clever and skilled in it, until you can see that it is ordinary and natural.  When there is anxiety and regret over it have the wisdom to recognize the limits of this anxiety and regret, knowing what they are according to the truth.  If you can consider things in this way then wisdom will arise.  Whenever suffering occurs, wisdom can arise there, if we investigate.  -Ajahn Chah, It Can Be Done

Thank you to the wonderful teachers at The Shala, who supported me during this difficult time.  They took on my classes willingly and reached out with loving hearts when I needed it the most.  I thank my students, who, while they did not know what was going on during this time, were a daily light in morning Mysore class.   Thank you to Guruji and my teacher Tim Miller for teaching me the Ashtanga Yoga method so that I could learn to use it as a tool in my life.   Thank you to my closest friends and family, especially my mother, who were there for me during times I needed their listening ears and loving arms.  And finally, I extend special love, gratitude and everlasting humility to my husband, who suffered on this path as well, yet was my rock in times of desperate sadness and pain.  I love you baby, and I look forward to sharing a future family with you!

Did you know?  Miscarriage Facts:

-Miscarriage is very common.  Up to 1 in 4 or 5 pregnancies end in miscarriage, maybe more!

-Most miscarriages are due to genetic problems in the embryo that would prevent a baby from developing normally and surviving.  These genetic errors are random but common.

-Once a miscarriage has started, it cannot be stopped.  A woman may choose to let nature take its course, or move forward with a D&C to speed up the process

-Miscarriage is so common that typically no special testing is performed unless there are risk factors present

-Most women who miscarry go on to have a successful pregnancy

-In most instances, the CAUSE of miscarriage is outside of the woman’s control




Photo courtesy of Nathan Peel Photography, Copyright 2013, All rights reserved.

Blog also available on Ashtanga Dispatch