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Two years ago, I did my first 30 day Bikram yoga challenge.

I started it the day my dog died.

My sweet Cleo

Cleo passed away unexpectedly during surgery and I was absolutely grief-stricken; she was my baby. After we spent hours sobbing on the couch, Husband had an idea —  “Let’s go to yoga.”

I thought he was crazy and in denial but I went because I was kind of a zombie. I would have followed him anywhere.

Besides, I figured that in the Bikram hot room tears looked like sweat, anyway.

When that class was over, I signed up to do a 30 day challenge.

I think it sounded nuts to those who were trying to care for me. After a loss you should take on as few voluntary challenges as possible, right? And here I was committing to go to yoga every day for the next month.

I couldn’t really explain it, I just knew I needed yoga. My studio is an incredibly supportive, safe space for me and even when I wanted stay home and cry (which was often) I walked into the room and was embraced in the way that my soul needed.

Every day for 30 days, I dedicated my practice to Cleo. I looked at myself in the mirror and as I put my knuckles to my chin for Pranayama, I was overcome by Cleo’s boundless love, bravery, loyalty and wisdom. I was so blessed by the fact that she was my dog and I was her person. I devoted every class to that feeling of gratitude.

Sometimes I cried – camel pose was often a rough one – but mostly I moved through the grief like I moved through the postures; slowly, mindfully and just one moment at a time.

Physically, I felt my body release the tension of grieving. I dealt with my emotional pain in the way that yoga and meditation had taught me; I grounded in the present moment, as uncomfortable as it was, and was reminded that there is no running away from my reality. I just dove in and knew I could take it.

Bikram yoga saved me during that difficult time. It opened up the space for me to deal with my loss. It supported me and made me stronger.

Last week as I arrived at my yoga studio, an instructor was hugging a student whose mother had just passed away.

All I could think was – I’m so glad she is here.

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