Amanda Gray is a personal trainer and founder of Sweat and Flow, a yoga studio that takes a physical approach to personal healing. She started Sweat and Flow after a breakup left her in a mental and emotional rut. We asked Amanda about her experience with heartbreak and she opened up about how fitness and yoga helped her through the post-breakup healing process.
If you think back to the first time you were heartbroken, what advice would you give to that younger version of yourself?
"Believe it when you're told, "it's not you, it's me." The line is not just a Hollywood rom-com cliche, it's the truth. You.... you are: perfectly imperfect, strong, beautiful, and confident. You are all of those things, and have been all of those things. No one can give you those qualities, and no one can take them away. We all have an internal narrative, and we can never truly know what's going on in someone else's head. So if they decided to walk away from you, let them continue on their journey without you. Your journey and your healing require you to tap into your innate qualities of strength and confidence and continue to move forward."
What has heartbreak taught you about yourself?
"I have always tended to be a "fixer," but not of the Olivia Pope variety. I subconsciously was attracting guys who for one reason or another "had potential," but weren't quite ready for a relationship on the emotionally available scale. It took a handful of heartbreaks and a therapist to finally realize that the person who needed "fixing" was myself. The men I was so desperately trying to be with were only mirrors back to what needed fixing in my own life. Without realizing it, I wasn't fully emotionally available because my internal narrative was playing my childhood trauma of my parent's divorce on repeat -- it's my fault, I'm not good enough, if I was perfect then he'd stay. Yadda Yadda. I have learned how to heal my codependency, strengthen my self-worth, and have funneled my need to "fix" into my passion and purpose - helping others heal from their own past wounds, using exercise and yoga as my methodology."
What are your rituals during a breakup? What things/practices/people helped you mend?
"I'm not usually an emotional or stress eater, but I definitely fall into the cliche category with my breakup vices, turning to my comforts - pizza and chocolate cake. I also rededicate myself to my workout routine, using exercise and sweat as a way to release any emotion that's coming up for me that day. For example, taking a boxing class if I'm feeling angry, a long run helps with jealousy or an overactive internal narrative, and I love yoga on the days where I'm feeling overly emotional and heavy. An hour workout is often the only time I can truly get out of my head."
Thinking back to breakups you’ve had, did you have any breakup vices (checking your ex’s Insta, etc) and how do you conquer them?
"I am definitely guilty of incessantly checking in on an ex's social media, so much that it's become an ingrained habit and I still find myself absentmindedly searching his name on Facebook, and for really no reason other than boredom. Not healthy behavior, but once you realize WHY you're doing it, it can ultimately be a big lesson. What are you hoping to find? Proof... of what? Nothing good comes of it - if there's a new girl that shows up in a photo or a comment, it's so easy to go down the rabbit hole, landing on her profile, looking through her photos. This behavior only invites in your inner critic, why do that to yourself? It's hard to have constraint, so my advice is to delete them from social media entirely. Go out and live your life. And eventually when the pain settles, if you even care, you can add them back."
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned about love so far in your life?
"Wounds are formed in relationships, but they're also healed in relationships. Despite the pain, the tears and heartbreak, I am so grateful for my last relationship and the subsequent breakup. It was my first breakdown to breakthrough moment. I don't think I've ever been so raw in my life, but that rawness helped to expose areas in my life, patterns in my life, that were keeping me stuck. I am so much more aware now than I have ever been, I am much stronger in my own self-worth because I was able to heal old wounds in the days, weeks, months following our breakup. I used to fear relationships because breakups gutted me so much, I didn't want to get serious with anyone and have to live through the pain when things didn't work out. A life without love is no way to live, you truly have to stay open to love. Even if it doesn't work out, you'll learn more about yourself, what you want and need, and how to love deeper."
Do you think exes can be friends? Do you stay friends with your exes on social media?
"This is tough, because I am almost three years removed from my last breakup and I am friends with said ex. In fact, we still see each other pretty regularly due to a shared group of friends. Aside from a few college boyfriends that I've lost touch with, I'm friends with all my exes. But that's not to discredit how HARD it was to get to this point of friendship. The first 6 months to a year after a breakup, no way, my emotions are too raw. But as the romantic feelings fade, and the lessons become more evident, it's hard NOT to have a friendship in some capacity. It doesn't have to be a social, everyday friendship, but to have loved someone means I will always be connected to them, it's my human nature."
What keeps your heart open, despite the heartbreaks you’ve had in your life?
"Knowing that my biggest transformations have stemmed from heartbreak. My first relationship out of college was the first time I could see myself settling down, and when it didn't work out I moved from Ohio to California to try to find myself. It took me nearly 4 years before I was in a serious relationship again, but in those years I met the most incredible people and traveled the world for my job, which I never would have done had I not moved. My last breakup came at the heels of personal tragedy for my ex, which made me start to examine my relationship with my father. I found forgiveness and closure. I am no longer haunted by my parent's divorce and my fractured childhood, which I was forced to confront during my breakup. Having had both of these experiences, and to be living the "good" that can come from the "bad," I realize that regardless of the outcome of my next relationship, I will be okay if not better."
What is your favorite song about heartbreak?
"I don't have a particular song off the top of my head, but John Mayer's Gravity album and Taylor Swift's 1989 album were on repeat during my two milestone breakups. Anytime I hear a song from those albums, it takes me right back to those moments."
What is your favorite movie about heartbreak?
"500 Days of Summer. I loved that the ending is so honest and true."
What projects are you currently working on, and looking forward to most?
"I am working on developing digital content for my company, Sweat and Flow, so I can continue to help women beyond my local reach in Southern California. Sweat and Flow is built on the vision that we can heal ourselves through movement, taking your traditional talk therapy off the couch and on to the mat. So often women hire a trainer or start exercising because they want to look a certain way. This is typically extrinsically motivated behavior, seeking attention or approval from an individual or society at large. When the workout becomes challenging, or we're triggered and we find an excuse, that's when we either beat ourselves up about being "bad," or quit working out entirely. What so many people often overlook when exercising is the way it makes us feel -- strong, empowered, confident, which should provide intrinsic motivation. Sweat and Flow bridges the gap between your therapist and your trainer, developing programs that will challenge you physically so we can get to that inner voice that tells you to quit. Then working together, we confront old thought patterns and push through the resistance to lose the emotional weight that holds you back. Our bodies are strong and capable, it's the mind that becomes weak. The Sweat and Flow promise is "come for the body, stay for the breakthrough."