I love this quote from BKS Iyengar, in which he says “The flexibility we gain in asana is the living symbol of the suppleness we gain in relation to life’s problems and challenges”. I love it because it gets at one of the biggest ways I think yoga practice helps us. Yes, of course the physical benefits of yoga are really important, especially for cancer survivors. And I am VERY grateful for the benefits that yoga has brought to my body: helping to reduce tightness and pain in my chest from surgery and radiation, returning range of motion to my shoulder, and building strength and flexibility in my back to eradicate my long standing low back pain (just to mention a few).
BUT, more importantly, I am grateful for my yoga practice and how it has helped me mentally, to be more flexible in life. Yoga practice has taught me to loosen my need to control everything (which obviously we can’t do, so why bang our heads against a wall trying), to be more open to whatever the present moment brings me, to not fear change but embrace it, to in fact find contentment and curiosity in the midst of that change, to navigate those changes with minimal tension and stress, and to trust that whatever is happening carries with it some lesson that will help me build grace and grow along my path. I would have never guessed, when I started my yoga journey nearly 10 years ago, that this practice would have such profound effects on my entire being. I started the practice, like most people, for the physical benefits. And yes indeed, the physical benefits are huge. I am physically in the best shape of my life, thanks to my yoga practice. But more importantly, I feel mentally as healthy and strong as I have ever been, with a sense of peace and joy overflowing most of my days. That’s not to say that I don’t have my moments. Of course I do. But I feel so much more aware and adaptable, and able to catch myself quickly and correct course when I lose my cool.
I hope that you will find similar benefits with your yoga practice. Just breathe deeply, keep yourself focused in the present moment, be patient, and trust in yourself and in the practice.
(and if you are new to the yoga world, we often say “namaste” at the end of practice or when greeting one another. It means this “I honor that place in you in which the entire universe dwells, I honor that place in you which is of love, of light, of peace, and of truth. When you are in that place in you, and I am in that place in me, we are one.” It is a beautiful way to show reverence for one another, to recognize ourselves in one another, and to truly understand our commonality and the beauty and perfection of our true nature.)