In an effort to keep cancer from returning to my body, I recently started taking a chemo-prevention pill. My only real concern is staving off the major side effect, which is my own anxiety about side effects.
One of the best anxiety treatments I know is daily movement on my mat. So today, I stepped back on it.
Sitting with my legs crossed I inhaled deeply as I reached my arms out to the sides and then up slightly over head. Bent elbows, I exhaled my hands together and down to a prayer at my heart. My thumbs pressed into my chest, and I was acutely aware of the lack of fleshy tissue around them, the missing pieces.
I sat silently searching for today’s intention. And then it came to me: ‘Honor your current body. Let it teach you.’
I began to move into different poses. Flowing slowly with my breath. Every single pose needed to be modified or propped up. From the outside, I’m sure the poses were unrecognizable. I imagined a fellow yogi walking in and saying, ‘Nice to see you on the mat, but what pose is that actually supposed to be?’ There were moments though, in each pose, when my muscle memory kicked in, and I imagined myself in the deepest expression of the pose.
Whatever expression of the pose I can currently achieve IS the fullest, deepest expression of the pose.
Sitting on the the floor with my legs outstretched, I pressed the backs of my knees down into the floor. I was about to fold over and reach for my toes. While teaching, I often say ‘Reach for your whatever-you-can-get today, knees, shins, ankles, toes.’
Today, keeping my spine straight and folding forward proved to be a great challenge. So I grabbed my strap, one end in each hand, wrapped it around my feet, and settled for just trying to press my legs straight and lean my torso forward. I wasn’t leaning very far forward. I was practically upright, and I thought about how on a really good day I could fold over and lay my torso on my thighs. But, isn’t today a really good day too?
There are no good days or bad days. No good practice or bad practice. No good body or bad body. There is only this day, this practice, this body and the lessons it holds.
Then I flowed. I did 3 cat cows! Breathing so slowly, savoring each micro-movement. My body wanted to press back into child’s pose, so I listened. But there was too much discomfort to stretch my arms out, so I modified with very very bent arms. I was content to be there, releasing into each breath. My arms were a bit uncomfortable but I could feel the stretching and softening. Then I realized that I could straighten one arm at a time. So I did.
I don’t have to avoid discomfort. I can sit with it, breathe through it, and wait for it to soften.
I decided to challenge myself and press up into downward facing dog. I was nervous. I didn’t know if I’d be able to hold it for more than a breath. I really wish I had filmed this part of the practice. The playback would’ve been hilarious. My down-dog was a hot-holy-mess. But it felt glorious! Glorious! For TWO whole breaths!
It doesn’t matter what it looks like on the outside. It only matters how it feels to you. On the inside.
When I stood in mountain pose I felt strong and straight, engaged and present. Hands at my heart I repeated my intention.
I wanted to flow through some sun breaths. Big sweeping movements, long slow deep breaths. I inhaled and reached my arms up overhead, as high as they could go, and then began the slow dive into forward fold. But I couldn’t fold. I thought I might be able to, but it wasn’t happening today.
Release expectations and accept what is.
Inhaling and exhaling I ‘flowed’ through one of the most modified Sun Salutations of all time. I had to move so slowly. Mindfulness while transitioning from pose to pose became more crucial than the poses themselves. Each moment just as important as the last.
Each moment of transition is in itself a pose.
We can find true contentment on the mat if we are present in each moment, if we let go of our expectations, our anxieties, our hopes, our fears.
Off the mat, we hold on to the moments and things we think are truly important, but we have to hold on so loosely that it won’t be difficult if and when we have to let them go.
Mindfulness is here in this moment.
If we can continually let go of all other moments and be truly present in THIS one, we can stave off all of life’s adverse side effects.