Yoga and the F word
Yoga and the F word.
Fear. Fear is a deep, belly twisting, gnarly fingered and many headed ogre that visits sometimes to many a Cancer survivor, including yours truly. The shadows of this monster are far reaching and one can be out of reach for a long time, and suddenly, without any undue warning, one can see it’s quiet, menacing presence in broad daylight or in a seemingly serene evening or in a well lit, jazz playing room. It’s right around the corner.
A Cancer survivor, like any other human being on the planet is a busy human being. Busy with life and living. Busy with packing lunches, tucking kids in, volunteering at school, rushing to work, drinking wine, debating just how life can go on without Stewart and Colbert. And then there it is! In the form of a routine doctor check up, in the residence of the clinic where one has gone many times for reasons both joyful and not so joyful, now triggers memories of being punched in the gut, of having one’s world spin crazily out of control, of unsure, unsteady and unhappy times, of recieving a cancer diagnosis at a time when all one wanted to do was to check a box saying yes, I am done with a screening mammogram.
Fear!! There it is when I hear my name called out, Ms. Rawoo ( yes, that’s my name, thank you), the doctor will see you now, she says with a smile. I smile back, this time I have some weapons I want to try against the F monster. I go into the room, sit back on the white paper covering the plastic recliner, bring the soles of my feet together, let the knees fall out and breathe. Reclined bound angle, here I come. I take in deep inhalations, into my rib cage, into my belly. As I do so I take in all that I am feeling, the strength, the fear, the love. And I exhale tension that I am holding in my upper back, in my glutes and in my mind. I see fear, hello fear, i say, I will hold you in an embrace. I understand you now. Then. I need to let you go.This is it. Simple. Powerful. Effective. I can do this.
The doctor comes in, does all the doctorey things that she is supposed to do. Tells me I need to do a follow up in three months. I continue keeping my mind focussed on my breath, in a seated position now( Even though my doc is cool, she would find the sight of bound angle a tad bit disconcerting 🙂 . My heart rate is normal as I ask questions, tell her what my concerns are. I can do this. And then she says, when I see you now, I see someone who has changed. You are at peace. Is it the yoga??
Is it the Yoga?? Yes!! Yes!! Yes!! Yoga and yogic breathing has shown to be very effective in reducing anxiety and depression. There are tons of studies that link Yogic breathing, meditation and even plain old asana practice to stress reduction, calming the nervous system, regulating blood pressure and heart rate. The practice of yoga inculcates a habit to stay in the present moment, be mindful of all the thoughts and feelings that do arise, and to be non judgemental of the self and others. All of the above work in tandem when one does come across a situation or person that is stressful. During asana practice, the simple Sthira (firm, solid) and sukha ( space, ease) dichotomy increases body awareness, increases the body and the mind’s ability to be disoriented, to be NOT at ease all the time, and for it to be accepted as that given moment with all its shades of pain, grief, fear and loss.
As I plod along in my journey as a survivor, as a teacher, I know a few things more than I did before Yoga. Fear maybe a companion who visits, and when that happens, I know just what to do now. Breathe and embrace and let it go. Until next time.