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Why I Practice; A Memorialization by Amber

Ten years ago I was an asshole…

And there is no nice way of saying it. Plus, I was the worst kind…

From the outside, it looked like I had it all. I was a leader in the military, I was a wife, I was a mother, I was a trained fighter, and I acted as though I was happy and my life was just how I wanted it…but to those in my inner circle, they saw the real me.

They could see my life was falling apart. I was full of rage, I was angry, and I lashed out at those who I loved the most. The unfortunate thing was that I truly believed I was fine.

Those really are the worse kinds of assholes, the ones that don’t think they are one!

Let me try and paint you a picture of what I can now look back on and call a shit storm.

Back then, it was just my normal life.

A little history on me. I’m in the Army. I have been in for over 20 years. The first time I had to leave my son for work he was 18 months old. I didn’t live with him again until right before his 3rd birthday. Shortly after that, I went to Iraq. By the time I returned from that deployment and some other military leadership schools I had to attend, my son was about to turn 7. I remember doing the math before his 7th birthday and realizing, “shit, I’ve been gone over half of my son’s life”.

(And next comes Afghanistan. And that deployment was a rough one. But more on that in a moment).

For most of my career, I have been a single mom. I did however have a husband. I knew him before I was in the Army. But I didn’t marry him until right before we went to Afghanistan. We both went to Afghanistan, same deployment, different locations.

And when I say Afghanistan was rough…

24 men didn't come home with us…three of which I watched fight for their lives, one of whom I held in my arms as he no longer had air in his lungs. And another man who I cleaned the blood off his lifeless face and body to prepare him to be put in a body bag. I would later meet his wife and soon realize that I cleaned him up so that she may see him for the last time in a state that I did not. To this day that is the most honorable act of service, I have done in my life.

I came home from Afghanistan a different person.

We had just gotten home and we were already preparing to go again.

I remember trying to focus all of my brokenness into fighting again. I found a fight gym, and I also trained with Soldiers on the post.

I’ve always had a fighter's heart…

And there is something about fighting that gives me peace. However, that wasn’t enough for me this time.

The amount of rage I had in my heart was too big.

Then one day, Laura, our Brigade Lawyer popped her head into my office and said, “What are you doing after work? Want to go to yoga with me?” I said sure…and that’s how it all started.

I can remember my first yoga class as if it were yesterday. I remember sitting up after class feeling so much peace. A peace I had not known. My heart wouldn’t allow that kind of peace during that season of my life because it was full of so much pain and loss.

I drove home and allowed myself to cry happy tears.

I remember going home that evening and being nice! And get this…I allowed myself to feel joy.

My life was forever changed on a yoga mat.

As Memorial Day approaches, I am reminded of the many men and women who are not here today. Lives lost in, both war, and suicides after war. It’s a difficult time for me. I take this time every year to not only remember them, but I want to always give them the honor and respect that is due.

I believe that I must live my life in a way that honors their legacy. I owe it to them. Not all of my friends came home from war. And because of that, part of my heart remains in the deserts of Iraq and the mountains of Afghanistan. I will honor them not just on Memorial Day, but every day.

I often think about what it would be like for me if I didn’t practice yoga.

It’s scary to think about how much worse it could have been for me. My marriage didn’t last. Yoga couldn’t save that…and it’s quite possible that yoga helped to bring clarity for me to leave what was unhealthy. I know that might not sound right for all…But I choose to live a life of peace and happiness, one filled with as much joy as is possible.

You are either on this train with me, or you aren’t.

Yoga isn’t a fix-all. But it is where I find my fighting chance.

I am a woman with many scars. My war-torn heart is heavy, and I carry many burdens. One of the most important things yoga does for me is, the practice gives me the space to breathe.

In my rage I do not breathe, for there is no space.

In my anger, there is no peace for I do not allow it…

But on my yoga mat, I feel all that is needed at that moment and I am allowed to be me.

Blog Written by Amber Bonds, SYCC Yoga Teacher; Take a class with Amber Thursdays @ 6 PM 'Military Free Flow' & 7:15 PM 'Vinyasa Flow'; images credited to Amber Bonds

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