Divorce, downward dog and the happily ever after

Divorce with a side of downward dog anyone? How about co-parenting with Chi? A movement towards amicable divorce and separation is emerging, as more people discover ways to find their Zen during a breakup.

Two parents and a little boy drawing and writing together

This article was originally published by News Corp Australia and has been republished here with permission.

Divorce with a side of downward dog anyone? How about co-parenting with Chi? A movement towards amicable divorce and separation is emerging, as more people discover ways to find their Zen during a breakup. Yoga, co-parenting apps and divorce retreats are among the new and unexpected tools being deployed as divorcees reframe their relationship’s end into a positive new beginning.

Weapons down

Encouraging empathy towards an estranged partner is among the novel approaches. “It’s easy to play the blame game, but particularly in a lengthy marriage, both parties have probably behaved in ways that, upon reflection, they would have liked to change,” says Cassandra Kalpaxis, author of Dignified Divorce and principal at Kalpaxis Legal. “When we try to understand where the other person is coming from, we can work towards a common goal.”

Kalpaxis recently launched ‘Detox your Divorce’ retreats, incorporating yoga and meditation with legal advice. While it might not be for everyone, the wholistic approach aims to inspire people to separate amicably for their own mental health. “We start with yoga at the beginning of each day, and mindful meditation at the end,” she says. “It gets people to reflect on why they’re there and what they want to get out of it.”

Yogi wisdom

Blogger and author behind the Divorced Girl Smiling brand, Jackie Pilossoph, goes as far as suggesting that “everyone going through divorce should be required by law to do yoga,” saying it helped her find calm, patience and tolerance during a difficult split.

For former mining worker, Dino Hira, yoga and meditation were a lifeline after a messy breakup, and even inspired a career change. Now a mindfulness and wellness coach at The Modern Yogi Co, he drew on the practice to find peace during a very public ‘divorce’ on reality show Married at First Sight. Today, he works with many clients going through breakups, including a growing number of men. According to Hira, yoga doesn’t just help people get through a divorce – it teaches them to value the experience. “It’s something that can add great meaning to your life as you go inward and learn who you really are,” he says.

Similarly, Kalpaxis says it’s heartening to see the transformation in her clients once they let go of their adversarial mindset. “I’ve had (retreat) attendees say they’ve finally gone back to get their degree, are focusing on themselves and doing things they never thought they were capable of,” she says. “This is impossible when people are holding onto resentment.”

While yoga may appear to be the antithesis of the legal system, a growing number of  lawyers are recognising that conservative approaches fail to address the complexities of family dynamics. The shift towards a Zen divorce mindset has seen more estranged couples deploy a ‘nest’ custody arrangement, where children remain in the family home, while their parents take turns to stay with them. Apps have also helped with constructive communication. Parents have a vast list to choose from, but these apps generally provide a communal calendar and details of expenses, some also enabling parents to share photos and children’s medical records.

“Some people find they have a better co-parenting relationship after divorce,” Kalpaxis says. “There will always be bumps in the road, but it’s about finding new  ways to navigate that."

Family goals

If there’s a sign of a successful co-parenting arrangement, it’s ex-spouses being able to share Christmas with each other and their new partners. This is an annual scenario for Jessica Cummins and her ex-husband, Sam, who split up nearly five years ago, when their son Max, was two.

“We just look at our boy and see how much he lights up when we’re all in the room together,” says Cummins, who has a one-year-old daughter with her new partner. Getting to this point has taken persistence, and for Cummins, has involved mindfulness and yoga to maintain a positive focus.

“It can be hard work, there have been times when both of us have needed space, but making it work is a decision you make,” she says.

“I want that happy family. It’s a long-term thing. Should Max choose to get married one day, I fully intend for his dad and I to be there together, making a speech.”

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