Tuesday, October 29, 2013
Yoga and My Body
This past April or May, I started taking a gentle yoga class at my gym. I have been pretty consistent with attending the class, with the exception of a period of time this past summer when I was not feeling well and at the doctor all the time. It is a gentle yoga class with a wonderful instructor, who has gone out of her way to show me modifications to help accommodate the joint issues with my wrists and knees.
Since I started the classes, I have seen some dramatic improvements in my flexibility, strength, and balance. As some of you may remember, I dealt with a bout of Guillain-Barre in February 2012 which required me to go through months of physical therapy to regain full functioning of my legs. However, I continued to struggle with mild balance issues at times. Since starting yoga, my balance issues have all completely resolved. I probably have better balance now then I did pre-Guillain-Barre.
I have noticed in my last several classes how far I have come in the class in terms of being able to do and hold the various postures. Two in particular have always challenged me and this week, I have been able to do both of them with a lot of effort, but no pain.
Something very unique happened to me today though in class. Yoga is a very get-in-tune with your body type of exercise. At the end of class, we get into a position called Shavasana or in layman's terms, the "corpse pose." I know, I know. Makes you want to run right out and sign up for yoga. It is actually a very important part of the class. It is the chance for the body to regroup and reset itself. It is almost like a deep, meditative state and is especially important for someone like me, who frequently has a hard time quieting her mind.
So after what I thought to be a very successful yoga class for me, I got into Shavasana and I began to have all these thoughts running through my head. Emotions flooded me. It reminded me of the few times when I went to acupuncture and I would start spontaneously crying for no reason. The thoughts that flooded my mind today had to do with my body and how much I have started to come to terms with it, flaws and all.
Until recently, I have always been at war with my body for one reason or another. I didn't like the way I looked: my hair was too curly, I had too much body hair, I was fat, the list went on and on. I had cancer in my mid-twenties which of course wreaks havoc on your body and self-esteem. Then came the autoimmune issues. They have caused me to be at war with my body more than any other thing that has ever happened to me. I have been working hard over the past few years on changing the way I look at myself and more importantly, the way I talk to myself. But there is something about yoga that has accelerated that process for me. Yoga allows me to see what my body is capable of, rather than how it has betrayed me.
While in Shavasana this morning, all I could think about is all the amazing things my body has done for me. Yes, I know I was supposed to be meditating and keeping my mind clear, but I figured this was all therapeutic for me, so I let myself experience it. My body has endured so much. In periods of my life, I have dumped a ridiculous amount of toxic food and drink into it, while avoiding any type of exercise. My body has endured up to fourteen hour shifts as a nurse; most of it on my feet. I have deprived it of sleep. It has undergone long and arduous tests and treatments; everything from months of radiation to bronchoscopies to surgeries. It has survived the invasiveness of it all. My body has endured toxic medications. It has enabled me to show love and affection. It has allowed me to go on adventures and experience a small part of this world. It has served me well when I have been of service to other people. This body has feed the hungry and held the hands of the suffering. It has made a difference in the life of others.
Lying still on that hard floor this morning, I became acutely aware of how amazing my body is. It is stronger today than it was yesterday. It is stronger this year than it was last year. This has not happened by chance; it has happened because I take better care of it; much better care.
As all these thoughts were going through my head this morning while lying with my eyes closed and I began to cry. It wasn't a sobbing type of cry, but more of a silent tear down the cheek type of cry; the kind where you try to stop it, but the tears keep coming. Of course as this was happening, I immediately thought about the fact that I was in a room with about twenty other people and they might see me all teary and think I was a nut. But then I realized it didn't matter. It was my yoga experience. My time to be aware of and rejoice in my body.
So thank you yoga.
And of course, thank you body.
Thank you for serving me well.