Every year in October I am reminded that I am a breast cancer survivor. The other 11 months of the year I pretend I am like everyone else but when September rolls around and I begin seeing all the pink ribbons the memories and the fears resurface. It is at this time that I appreciate my yoga practice even more.
Yoga was a part of my life before I was diagnosed with breast cancer in November of 2006. I had been teaching yoga for six years at that time. I fell in love with yoga when I saw how it changed me and the other people that came to my classes. I watched as people began coming off their medications. I watched people achieve personal goals they had struggled with for years. I didn’t understand the reasons and I didn’t try to understand. I watched. I trusted.
Yoga was a place of acceptance for me after I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Yoga accepted me where I was each time I got on the mat. Each time I got on the mat I was at a different place. I learned to understand that each practice would be different. I learned that I might be able to do a headstand one day and the next it was not a good place for me that day. I learned that some days I needed a vigorous practice and some days I needed peace. It was hard for me to believe that I needed to listen to my body and not my mind during cancer.
Yoga didn’t demand that I be perky or keep a smile plastered on my face.
Yoga didn’t care what size my jeans were
or how I wore my hair.
or the kind of car I drove.
Yoga was a place where I was just another yogi. These yogis were my family. I didn’t have to be anything I was not. No one cared that I was going through cancer treatments. No one cared that I was bald. No one cared that I wore a wig or took it off and shook it out when I got too hot.
Yoga was an escape for a short time from the anxiety I was going through.
Yoga met me where I was each day but I never left the mat the same, as I was when I got on my mat.
The students that came to my classes at the gym loved me, prayed for me and worried about me. On the mat we were all one. We were all the same. We were all healthy. We were all stressed. We were all sick. We were all broken. We were all healed.
When I entered the classroom to teach yoga during my cancer treatments, I entered with stress, with fear, and with anxiety. Each time I exhaled, that first exhale, I exhaled all my concerns…at least for that one hour.
Yoga is not a magic pill, it is not a cure-all for all that ails you but for me it was an escape from things I didn’t want to face … all the time. It was a place to be quiet, to be still, to be introspective.
It is hard for me to be alone with my thoughts. It is hard to stomach the fact that I had cancer.
That I could have died.
I could have died and not seen my children grow up.
I could have died and not been there to make sure they were loved.
I could have died and not accomplished the things I wanted to accomplish.
I could have died and not known what it was like to truly be loved.
I didn’t die.
I am alive and I am healthier than I have ever been. I am healthier physically and I am healthier emotionally.
Yoga did not save me but yoga helped me to save myself.