Yoga Diary: Home on the Mat


By Claire Bidwell Smith  |  

Several years after both of my parents passed away, I discovered yoga and slowly began to overcome the fear of my own body. I had begun to realize the limits of the human body at the young age of 14, when my father was diagnosed with prostate cancer. As the date for his surgery neared, my mother anxiously complained about a pain in her stomach. An ulcer? The doctors shook their heads: colon cancer, stage 4.

Over the next 10 years, I would watch both of my parents go through multiple surgeries, rounds of chemotherapy, bouts of radiation, and eventually death. Throughout my adolescence, a time when I should have been rejoicing in the youthful abundance of my physical form, I was instead watching disease ravage both of my parents’ bodies. By the time I was 25, both my mother and father were gone, and I had developed a severe mistrust of the human body.

I tried yoga. In the budding months of my practice, I realized that I had spent years ignoring my body. As I breathed my way into the poses, I became aware of my muscles, my limbs and outstretched fingers, my lithe form. One New Year’s Day, during Savasana, tears slipped down my cheeks, spurred in part by regret for the years I’d spent in fear but more by gratitude for the chance to finally come to know and love this beautiful body I get to call home.