Take deep breaths.
The foundation of yoga is the breath and most of the time we go through life breathing in an automatic and shallow way paying little attention to the breath. When you practice yoga you are devoting time to focus intently on your breath and with practice, yoga can teach you to connect with your breath at any moment. This is especially helpful in times of extreme stress and worry like the type that often accompanies living with cancer. Yoga teaches that connecting mindfully to your breath calms the body, mind, and spirit.
Moving your body can help quiet your mind.
It has been my experience so far in my journey with cancer that uncertainty and worry about the future are two of the biggest thieves of peace of mind out there and yoga provides a space of time where you can get out of your head by tuning into your body. The Yoga Sutras written many years ago by Patanjali can be a helpful source of insight into the practice of yoga. The second sutra states: yogas citta vrtti nirodhah. This translates to mean “the restraint of the modifications of the mind-stuff is Yoga” or “yoga is the uniting of consciousness in the heart”. The citta vrtti is also referred to as the control of the monkey mind, and for many that is what keeps them coming back to the practice of yoga; peace of mind. Moving your body in a yoga class makes you become completely present which allows you to release worries and anxiety for that time giving your body a break from the stress anxiety produces. With time and practice these moments of living in the present with a quiet mind start to happen even as you step off your mat and back into the world.
Staying present and living mindfully can enrich your life.
For me, being diagnosed with cancer immediately made me fearful of the future. What was going to happen to me? Would I suffer? How was my family going to handle having to care for me and possibly lose me? How were we going to afford my health care? Would my kids be ok if I died because no one could love and care for them like me? My mind was swirling with thoughts of the future and fear was taking a deep hold on me. My yoga practice gives me a safe and loving place to go when I am fearful. I consciously remove those fears from my mind as I remove my shoes in the studio lobby. Mindfully I step on to my mat, connect to my breath, and stay in the present moment enjoying the respite from worry and fear. I don’t know quite how the magic of yoga works, but I do know that if I spend an hour on myself in a yoga class the benefits of taking that class follow me through the rest of my day and I feel happier and content.
When cancer enters the life of yourself or a loved one - everything changes. I hope this blog might serve to help someone else on their journey. Feel free to comment or submit any questions you may have about cancer treatments, coping strategies, the services offered by Be Well, and/or anything else that might come up to the Be Well contact page. Please know that you are not alone.
With love, light, and peace,