The healing effects of yoga have been well documented throughtout history in the over five thousand years that people around the world have been practicing. Personally, I have just been reintroduced to the power of the mind body connection since my illness.
As a teenager, growing up in Atlanta, I remember stumbling upon one of my mother’s books in our family room/library. Interestingly, it was a book of yoga poses. Always open minded and curious, I began to form my own “practice,” mimicking the poses on the pages of the red jacketed book on the soft gray carpet in our family room. Some things in that book still stick in my mind. I remember reading that doing a shoulder stand helped your thyroid and that the universal mantra is OM. I practiced my poses for a few weeks, and then lost interest because I , like most teenagers, was busy with life and cheerleading at the football game.
After I had my surgery someone suggested that I try yoga to help with my recovery. I was too intimidated to go to a yoga studio so I purchased a DVD at Whole Foods and began my own Anusara practice in my family room. I noticed that I felt stronger and longer than I had before. I also noticed a peace of mind that hadn’t been with me previously.
One day I was looking for a yoga class to attend and I noticed that there was a class taught by a fellow cancer survivor at a local fitness studio. I called my friend Lisa. “Lisa, I found this yoga class at Focus Fitness and it is for cancer survivors. Will you go with me?” I didn’t think I could go alone and I knew that she would try it with me. “Sure, why not.” She replied. So we met at the studio with yoga mats in hand to begin the class.
I hadn’t seen Karen, the instructor, since her hair was short and I was thrilled to see her looking beautiful and poised; ready to heal our tired bodies. She explained that the class was only for cancer survivors but she let Lisa stay for that one class anyway, thankfully. After an hour of stretching, twisting and strengthening we emerged renewed in spirit and mind. Needless to say, I have been faithfully attending classes ever since, gaining a deeper mental and physical connection with each session I attend.
The class is called RePose Yoga which is, "Yoga developed to renew and restore the mind , during and after cancer." According to the studio's website. The class focuses on particular poses to enhance the immune system of cancer survivors and current patients. Karen is certified by the OM Women Cancer Survivors (WCS).
We begin each class with a big OM which, according to Karen, has healing qualities because of the vibration of the voice. Then we tap a little bit on our chest, right around the sternum. This supposedly stimulates the T-cells. I don’t know what scientific evidence that there is to that but it feels good, sort of like a little kitten kneading its paws on your chest.
We move on to a self massage to drain the lymph from our arms where many of us have had lymph nodes removed. This is one area that I do know clinicians have proven that movement stimulates the lymphatic system. Not only does this feel wonderful but my arms feel lighter afterwards, my fingers less swollen.
We proceed to do many traditional yoga postures but also continue to do poses that focus on range of motion and lymphatic stimulation. We OM a little bit more and strive to become one with the universe. Inevitably I leave the session feeling relaxed and less stressed It makes me wonder what might have happened had I not had a thirty year lapse in my yoga practice. Oh well, hindsight is 20/20. Time to go to yoga…..OMMMMM.