What’s wrong with me? What is my body trying to tell me? One day, in the middle of a Yin yoga class, I was suddently aware that something was not right in my body. A few weeks went by and the feeling didn’t pass, so I made an appointment with my doctor. A few months after my 40th birthday, I was diagnosed with cancer. During a one-hour doctor’s appointment, I suddenly became sick, for real. I believe the cancer was discovered in time because I had been doing yoga for so long, and was able to listen to the messages from my body. Even my doctor was amazed that I made an appointment without any clear symptoms. Everything happened very quickly.
The journey back to health has taken more time, however. The surgery was big, and the first steps to recovery from cancer are small. Yet I was able to utilise yoga from a very early stage. I remember so well those first short yoga exercises I tried to do as soon as I was allowed to, and those rather desperate Yin yoga classes where I only did the asanas where I could lay on my back. Even my surgeon recommended yoga exercises that open the hip muscles – they are quite beneficial after big operations in the pelvic floor area. Recovery has tested my mind and my patience, but I believe I’m more than halfway there.
Yoga and living with pain
Yoga also has another dimension in my cancer story: mind control. Relaxation and various meditation exercises have helped me calm my mind during scary examinations and treatments. I’ve been wondering if this consciousness could be utilized together with gynecological nursing staff, physiotherapists and yoga experts more efficiently than before.
One of the most tangible and memorable moments was lying in hospital in severe pain. From somewhere in the back of my mind, I recalled Katarina’s Yin yoga class. We were doing the swan asana, which has always been difficult for me. She must have seen me squirming on her screen, as I can still remember the soothing voice that guided me to just concentrate on breathing, and feel whether the pain was real or whether it was just my mind wanting out of the asana. Well, in hospital the pain was indeed real, but the same breathing technique enabled me to shut out the pain instead of letting it take over my entire mind.
Back to the mat
The return to my dear hobby happened slowly. My body is no longer the same; major surgeries have left their marks and my favorite asanas can be quite painful. Surprisingly, my mind was unable to concentrate on the slower Yin yoga that I had been doing as many as four times a week before my cancer. From Yogaia’s selection, however, I found new, more dynamic joys and easy relaxation exercises. Testing new styles alone at home was easy.
At first, I was shy about live classes because I was no longer as flexible or strong as I was before. But the feeling of success was amazing when I gathered enough courage to attend my first live class; it was so wonderful when the instructor greeted me by name and facilitated asanas I had trouble with. I was again part of a community, not just a recovering cancer patient doing yoga alone at home.
4th February 2017 marks World Cancer Day, a day when millions of people all over the world unite to stand up against a disease that affects almost everyone in some way. This year, we donated £1 for every Yogaia Yogi who joined a live class between 3rd – 5th February, and in total donated £295 pounds to Cancer Research UK!
Thank you to all the yogis who joined us on the mat!
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