In Order To Heal Others I Had To First Heal Myself
I’m from a place called Gurgaon, now officially known as Gurugram, in Northern India, just Southwest of New Delhi. I grew up in a very close-knit family with a younger brother and sister. Overall, I had the most wonderful childhood. My father is a retired business owner, my mother a home-maker, always with a project on the go. Gurgaon was not then the metropolis it is now. Throughout my life I’ve watched it develop and grow from a small and insignificant space into a grand and affluent city.
There is a running joke in my family and amongst friends that I have “ants in my pants”, as I have always been a very active and cheerful person. My teachers would tell my mum that I could never sit still, which she was fully aware of! The reports were always the same – “This girl is so intelligent but, my goodness, she talks a lot.” My hobbies were always very physical: I loved singing, dancing and all types of sports and exercise. Since my childhood, I had dreams of being a doctor and healing people, although I wasn’t able to study medicine as my Dad refused to pay the tuition fees, because he knew how tough life is for doctors.
I decided to study Biotechnology and lived on campus. I loved all four years of studies. Immersing myself in university life and all its sporting and cultural events allowed me to experience more than just my course, which was great for me and the ants in my pants. I was lucky enough to be offered employment following my graduation. This meant I was able to relax a little, as I knew I had a job waiting for me after my studies. But due to the economic crisis in 2008, the work I ended up doing had no relation to my area of study.
For the first couple of years I loved the work because it was new and therefore exciting. I was living in Bangalore in the south of India, enjoying my new-found freedom and independence, away from my parents. I eventually started a new job designing a mobile app for a travel company. I was learning a lot with regards to graphic aesthetics, as well as writing website and mobile content, so it was a really great experience. I was often working 13 or 14 hour days, which eventually became too crazy, even for me. I wasn’t spending any time with my family, let alone with myself. I was also struggling with my boss, being the only woman in a team of eight. I made the bold decision to leave my job and the IT industry altogether and took a well-earned break. Although this only lasted a couple of months because, of course, the ants got bored. I completed multiple yoga courses and really loved the curative aspect of it. It rekindled the passion for healing that was ignited inside of me as a young girl.
In April 2013 I was introduced to the man I would be married to. We met a handful of times before marrying in November of that same year. A lot of people in India are comfortable with arranged marriages, although this is changing, with more and more people rejecting the tradition. Although I had reservations, my situation didn’t feel out of the ordinary. Looking back, there were red flags and situations in which I had been uncomfortable, but I didn’t feel confident enough to speak out. I convinced myself that I was reading too much into the situation and that it was too late to change my mind.
Initially we lived together in India but relocated to Hong Kong for his work. The move made his aggression and alcoholism more apparent. I managed to get a job teaching English and Psychology in a prestigious tutoring academy in Hong Kong. But I was socially isolated in a new and strange land, all the while being a victim of domestic violence. I was incredibly overwhelmed. Being there was a tough and tormenting experience for me. It was as if a huge cloud had descended over what had so far been a really good life. For most of the marriage I didn’t let either of our families know what was going on behind closed doors. But things got out of hand when the abuse resulted in my hospitalization. I had no choice but to call my parents as well as his. It’s really difficult to put into words how this felt. No one should have to go through that pain in a relationship – it’s a completely awful situation. I had never experienced verbal abuse before, let alone physical assault, and I was filled with despise and disgust for him, because his behavior was totally unacceptable. I found the strength to call the police and he was arrested. This caused his family great upset. They knew he was aggressive and verbally abusive, but despite their efforts with him remotely, his attitude did not change. I told them that I do not have to accept this mistreatment from him. His arrest was his doing, and his doing alone. I was physically and mentally tortured for months on end. He would go to counseling and his behavior would improve for a short while. But sure enough, the abuse would always return. Eventually the families agreed that we could separate and so we parted ways.
I decided to stay in Hong Kong because, despite everything that had happened, I enjoyed my job and I didn’t want to be driven out of the country and my work because of him. My job was a safe space for me. I ended up staying there for four and a half years. HK is a hectic metropolis and was a dizzying place for me to be at a time when I was dealing with the legal technicalities of my divorce. Eventually I thought to myself “No, I’m done here.” I was done with living alone, done with working and done with being strong and having nothing else to my life. I felt incredibly isolated and so I decided to return home. Yoga and meditation gave me the time and space to connect with and understand myself. It’s what kept me going throughout all of this.
Due to the domestic violence I had endured, I was experiencing issues with movement on the right side of my body. There were some days where I couldn’t move my right thumb and others where I couldn’t move my whole arm, back or neck. It was another wake-up call that I needed to fully commit to healing myself. I moved back to India, and in doing so threw myself into care and compassion for my body and my life. I took up Reiki and other natural healing processes. I realized that in my culture we are often not taught how to look after ourselves in times of great difficulty. We tend to take in the hardships and just absorb them, but this is so unhealthy. Through my practice I was able to make a full recovery. Having helped heal myself, I felt able to make the decision to train as a well-being counselor so that I would be able to help other people. I started giving people the space to talk about their problems and express their anger safely. I encouraged people to talk rather than keeping things bottled up, to set the pain free and, therefore, set themselves free.
I have since created Ishall Yoga. This is my own personal business project. I put my whole heart into this venture, without putting too much pressure on myself, and it has blossomed beautifully and organically. I have been able to help people from all over the world through my yoga classes. I have learnt that so many people are reluctant to talk about their feelings, to cry about their emotions and experiences. But it is so important that we connect with ourselves and others in this way, and to know in our soul that it is completely acceptable to do this. I can happily say that I have forgiven my ex-husband for what he did to me, and don’t really give him much thought. I practice what I teach, so it’s important not to keep things inside. Every single person has the potential to heal and be healed. The first step is to simply express, and in doing so release that negativity into the open, so it is in a space where it can be transformed.
This blog was written by Alice Maia based on the interview with Tales to Inspire.