Yoga was a massive part of my healing process. Seriously. I know so many people say that yoga is life altering and you can almost literally hear the eye rolls sometimes. Now, when people hear I'm a yoga teacher, one of two things happens: They're either really excited and share how much they love yoga too, or they follow up with something about not being flexible enough, not having the time to do it, or skepticism that is really is as magical as it is. I get it though. Before yoga became a huge part of my life, I was skeptical that moving my body into unfamiliar poses would do anything amazing for me. I looked at it as a workout. And I never imagined I would be able to do a lot of the poses.
Before breast cancer, I tried yoga a couple times, and it was enjoyable. I wasn't really into it enough to make it part of my routine though. I guess I wasn't ready? See, the thing with yoga is, it's not just a workout. It's so much more. It's a full body experience. There's a mental component to it and I wasn't willing to open my mind up for a workout. Sometimes yoga pulls the ugly out, and that kind of vulnerability wasn't something I was willing to face before.
Then I got sick. I knew my life needed a major overhaul if I had any chance of getting better. Cancer really kicks your ass physically and mentally. I had to face things and work through some things if I was ever going to heal. I somehow knew this wasn't just a physical battle. It was so much more than that.
I started with diet, and yoga didn't come into play until after chemo. I didn't have the space or the energy to put into something like yoga until after chemo was over. And it wasn't as if I just finished chemo and was able to contort and twist myself into every pose and flow with ease. It was so far from that. All I started with was child's pose.
About a month after chemo was over, I had my first surgery. We did a radical mastectomy on the right side and left my left side untouched. My surgeon was afraid that if he did both sides, it would take too long and my blood could clot (after effects of chemo). So I would have one breast for a bit. When I woke up from surgery, it was a shock. I had never had major surgery before. Only arthroscopic knee surgery and my wisdom teeth removed. I wasn't able to move my right arm much at all and the physical therapist that came in to see me emphasized how important it was to do my exercises because there was a risk that I may never be able to lift my arm up all the way anymore. Even with the exercises, it was still a risk, but I was more likely to have more range of motion with the exercises than without.
I also had staples that went from about the middle of my chest almost all the way to my armpit. Such a weird thing to see on your own body. I had seen staples on other people before, but never myself.
My physical therapy exercises were helpful at first. I definitely wasn't ready for anything more than they gave me, but I wasn't going to be continuing with one-on-one PT once I was released from the hospital. I don't know if that was an insurance thing or what. So I did my exercises for awhile, and eventually, they weren't much of a challenge anymore. That's a good thing! Except I knew I needed to keep going.
For some reason, I decided to try the only yoga pose I knew from the couple classes I had taken before breast cancer: child's pose. It wasn't pretty. I still couldn't raise my hand all the way over my head, but I did the best I could. Eventually, my range of motion got better, and before I knew it, I was trying out short yoga classes online for free on YouTube.
That's how it all started. Eventually, I was taking yoga classes at the Y and then looking for studios I could try. Before I knew it, I was signing up for Yoga Teacher Training.
Since my diagnosis, I have had several surgeries. Every time, I feel like I'm starting over, and every time I am drawn to yoga. Not just because it helps me get my range of motion and strength back, but because it also brings my entire body to a place of peace and happiness. I can't explain the way I feel after yoga. It's just something you have to experience to know.
And it doesn't matter that I still look like a beginner after all these years. I can't do a headstand without assistance and I've gone from being able to do crow pose and hold it for up to a minute or so to then not being able to do it at all multiple times. But it isn't about what poses I can and can't do and it's not about being able to the advanced stuff. It's about how yoga makes me feel day-to-day. I can tell a difference in my everyday demeanor when I'm doing yoga consistently and when I'm not. And so can my husband. I don't even have to do it for long periods of time either. Some days, I'll do yoga for an hour, some days it's only 10-20 minutes. Either way, it makes a big difference.
My point is this: Yoga is for everyone. There are ways to modify anything for anyone. Chair yoga is even a thing, and once during my yoga teacher training, I attended a class strictly for veterans. Some were older and some were younger. Some could get down on the floor and some couldn't. One man even had Alzheimer's and needed special assistance throughout the class.... but he did it! His yoga didn't look like the person next to him. No one's yoga looks the same. Because it isn't about the asanas (or poses). The movement is a very small part! But by doing yoga they were healing, and so am I. And so can you if you don't already practice :)
If it wasn't for yoga, I don't know that I would be where I am now. I don't know that I would be NED. I don't know that I would have the range of motion that I do. I can't imagine that things would be better without my yoga practice! I talk about food a lot, but to be honest, I think my yoga practice is just as important as the food I'm eating. I just can't do the yoga bliss feeling justice with words. You'll just have to try and feel it for yourself ;)