Saturday, April 6, 2019

Yoga for healing



Yoga bolster, the only prop I have, thanks to a friend - I use cushions instead of blocks

View from my mat

Soy candle and diffuser

My 'yoga room' is also the 'map room' and where visiting babies and toddlers sleep


Shortly before I was diagnosed, I had completed one of Adriene Mishler's 30-day yoga challenges, which was no longer challenging, as I was doing yoga almost every day anyway. I felt confident that it had become a habit (again... I have a history of breaking habits*), in the same way that meditating for 20 minutes a day had become a habit. I saw both as a crucial part of healing from the physically and emotionally traumatic miscarriage the previous December.

The shock of a cancer diagnosis burst that lovely routine, and for quite a while afterwards, even when I had started doing other types of meditations and visualisations, I couldn't go back to yoga and the zen meditation. It felt so far removed - there I had been all those weeks on my mat feeling strong and healthy, oblivious of the fact that there was a 2cm tumour in my right lung that had already spread to a few lymph nodes.

Eventually I pulled up one of the YouTube videos again, with Adriene, who is a similar age and similar body type - and I felt as if I were from another planet, looking in on the activities of people who were 'well' and carefree. She talked about doing yoga after a tough day or something along those lines, and I remember thinking that for the majority of those listening, this meant 'tough' in the region of a difficult day at work, an argument or some back pain.

In real life, too, some alienation had set in - being healthy and starting a family seemed to be taken for granted by a lot of my peers, and both had collapsed within the space of months in my case. And it went deeper: most of the people in my life who are also in their thirties still have both parents and some even grandparents, while my dad died when I was 18. But I have never begrudged anyone their good luck or 'normality'; I am delighted for them. Paradoxically, along with the alienation I also began to feel closer than ever to my fellow human beings. And this was reflected in and no doubt helped by yoga (which is after all about union and being one with the source of all life).

We are all connected, and I focus on our shared humanity and how everybody is experiencing the human condition. And I am acutely aware that despite everything my family and I have been through, we are still incredibly lucky compared to people in other parts of the world, and I never really entertain the 'why me/us?' thoughts.

With the treatment I underwent, which was gruelling during the weeks I had both chemo and radiotherapy, it took a few months of feeling doomed and broken before I felt part of life again, and yoga has been a vital component of my healing.

I had never done yin yoga (where you hold a pose for several minutes) before. My hypnotherapist had suggested doing restorative poses for five minutes, and then I came across Yoga with Kassandra. Previously, I would have chosen videos around the half-hour mark and glanced at the clock every now and again, but now I regularly do 75 min or 90 min classes and lose all sense of time (well, I don't when a pose is hard to hold!).

It has a wonderfully calming effect on the emotional and spiritual level and has made me physically stronger and changed how I hold myself and how I move. For example, when I reach up to reach a shelf, I do it like a dancer and enjoy the stretch, possibly annoying anyone present. I crave stretching, and if by the evening I haven't done any yoga, I get restless.

I used to burn peppermint oil in the room I do yoga in, as it is energising (this was when I did a lot of vinyasa flows) and helps with the breathing, but now I nearly always use frankincense oil, after a friend recommended it for cancer. For some reason, I had twenty different oils, but had never bought frankincense oil before. So when I smell it, it is a reminder to say my healing mantras; I know that during my practice my cells get the benefit of the oil; and of course, being frankincense, it contributes to inner peace.

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Here is an article about yoga and cancer. 


*It made me smile when I typed that, as it reminds me of the title of one of Joe Dispenza's books, Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself -  I am doing very important work on breaking that habit! A lot of people find the title confusing, as it sounds counterintuitive, but it means releasing the subconscious programs that have been running us for most of our life.

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