You Said: Reader Comments on Yoga as HealingNamaste,
In November 1999, I found a lump in my left breast, three months after a mammogram had pronounced everything normal. Over the next few months, I had surgery, treatment, and all of the other things that go along with a breast cancer diagnosis. The one thing I didn’t have was a sense of fatalism. When I joked, my mother said that I was not taking breast cancer seriously. I explained that I took it seriously, but that didn’t mean that I had to be serious.
I did go around telling everyone I had breast cancer. "Hi, how are you today." "I have breast cancer." A real conversation stopper. But I was determined, for some reason still unknown to me, that I would show people that I could have breast cancer but not be breast cancer. I was not going to be "attached" to this disease—-a valuable yoga lesson. I also wanted to awaken people to the fact that mammograms are not infallible.
I wonder if my story would have been different had I not been studying yoga for years—-in fact, three months before finding the lump, I enrolled in yoga teacher training. This would turn out to be a lifesaver in terms of my attitude toward myself and the disease.
In the surgical suite, I "connected" spiritually with my yoga class, which was meeting at the same time as my surgery. As I went "under" the anesthetic, I was in touch with my class, and they were in touch with me.
When I came out of surgery, the attendants were amazed at how strong my breath was—-I could really suck up on that spirometer. I attribute that strength to yoga breathing. The breath (pPranayama=breath control): One of the things I learned in yoga was breath control: Long exhalations to increase relaxation and directing the breath toward areas of the body that were in need. Throughout a painful 2-hour pre-operative procedure, I practiced pranayama techniques and focused my breath on the parts of my body that were holding tension. The results were amazing—-I kept my equilibrium and was able to tolerate the procedure without undue suffering.
Over the next weeks and months, I eased back into yoga asanas (postures), immediately focusing on my lower body, as recommended by my teacher, Susan. After doctor approval, I began to work on my upper body—-physical therapists found my range of motion to be exceptional—-all from slow, methodical, non-harming yoga stretches and restorative poses.
--Cyndee Trower, RYT, RMT-IARP
When people ask , "Oh you do yoga? For how long now?" I answer, "I've been a beginner for over ten years." This answer came to me because of the impressed reactions I would get due the length of time I have practiced. Ten years in our fast food fad world sounds like forever to some people. This gives a wrong impression not only of my level of competence but of yoga itself. Yes I have had a steady and committed practice all this time. It has been and continues to be a deepening into myself, a purification of personality along with an increasing of flexibility and overall grace and flow. I have teachers and attend classes and workshops at times. Mostly I have developed a relationship with my mat. It invites me to 'do yoga', to claim it, own it, make it mine. It is a part of my lifestyle. I do not remember the names of poses and cannot yet do your basic headstand or other poses that dramatically state, "I am a Yogi". The inner work and benefits of my practice are real however, I feel them, see them and experience the benefits in every aspect of my Being.
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