Yoga. It was love at first movement when I discovered yoga. I remember sitting on the living room floor with Ken (my husband) and a copy of Rodney Yee’s Yoga: Poetry of the Body book. We took turns trying to do the poses, having no idea what we were doing or what the poses were doing for us. Fast forward ten years, and I have taken scores of yoga workshops and even became certified as a Power Alignment Yoga teacher in my quest to go ever deeper with my yoga practice. Yet here I am, limping half-heartedly through my personal practice, with no oomph, no interest, no connection to it. My husband tells me to give myself time, to not be so hard on myself, but in my mind I can taste the joy my body feels when it is stretching and moving through a yoga practice. I long for it, my body aches for it, yet it eludes me …
I can feel the poses, or more likely, remember them, back before breast cancer, before my body was always in a state of healing. First from tests, the pokes and prods of biopsies, then from chemotherapy. I did yoga through most of the five months of chemotherapy treatments, only petering out at the end. Movement gave me solace, the feeling that everything was still alright. The palliative drugs they gave me, whether it was the steroids or Benedryl, I do not know, seemed to loosen up my body in new ways, giving me access to poses I had been struggling with. And then it was gone. My energy faded, my practice became shorter; then surgery came and my practice was put on hold. My physical practice became solely a spiritual practice, with meditation as my guiding force. Then, during the six weeks of daily radiation treatments I relied on my spin bike, hanging on to the notion that cardio workouts would keep my heart and lungs more pliable during the treatments, and thereafter. And now here I am, all that is behind me and yoga is calling me, reminding me it is time to get back on my mat, yet it eludes me …
One thing I learned early on from yoga is that when I am stuck, I need to mix it up. It works with everything in life. If you are stuck on a problem, tackle it from a different angle. Ask a different question, talk it out with an unlikely ear, and keep an open mind. Sometimes, we can get so set in our ways that we can’t hear any other answer than the one that has us firmly mired in our self-made impasse. We see no way out. That’s when I mix it up. I meditate on it, sleep on it, push it out of my mind so new thoughts and ideas can have room to move in. With yoga, I let go of the reins. Instead of fixating on the notion that my practice isn’t doing it for me, I let someone else do the driving. I go to a yoga studio and let myself just be.
I haven’t been in a yoga studio in years. Once I developed a home practice, I found it more rewarding to immerse myself in the spirit of the practice I created. I have also never looked for a yoga studio to practice in, they tend to find me. If you put out what you want in a yoga studio, the right one makes itself known. I want a studio that follows the principals of alignment-based yoga (it has its roots in Iyengar yoga) and has a warm community spirit. To this end, Sweetwater Yoga & Fitness kept coming up, so I decided it was time to give it a go. I dropped in for an all-level, non-heated yoga class.
I’ll admit, I was a little nervous about the whole thing. For the past month, my home practice consisted of a few spinal balances, a couple of standing poses and then I’d crap out and move to Shivasana (Corpse Pose, lying flat on my back). Fifteen minutes from start to end, with most of it being Shivasana. Now I was faced with an hour-long class. I told myself I would do the whole class, but I would dial it back. It didn’t have to be perfect (I have an issue with perfectionism, I own it); it just had to be. Isn’t that all any of us can do, just be? I used to know that, to revel in it, that yoga was not about being perfect, it was about just being, letting yourself embrace and enjoy the moment you are in. It’s not really about the pose, the pose is just a vehicle to illuminate the bigger picture, that we are all perfect and we are all flawed, they are one in the same, and neither matters. If we can get that, really get it, then we find peace.
A funny thing happened when I went into Sweetwater Yoga & Fitness and sat on my mat waiting for the class to begin. All that good jujube, that yoga community peaceful, happy essence that permeates everything, got on me too and it was all alright again. The class was perfect, or maybe it wasn’t, but for me, in that moment, everything was as it should be. It was no longer about the class, about whether I could or did do the poses, it was about the fact that I showed up. I showed up for the class and I showed up for me. That’s all we can do, each and every day, is show up, try our best, and revel in that moment.
I won’t candy coat the obvious, I still struggle with where I am physically, but if I look at it from a different angle, I am blessed with this gift that is my body. It bears the scars of wars waged and won, it has braved adventures and embraced the bumps and bruises that come with facing challenges. It has survived, it has thrived, because it is a body forged on a yoga mat, and like a warrior back from battle, it is glad to be home.