So last Friday’s post was one that resonates with me strongly, about right use of energy, mainly addressing the need to slow down and rest sometimes. This is because I tend to be energetic and motivated, sometimes to a fault. I can push myself too hard, and wind up exhausted. This is not smart nor productive in the long run.
But the flip side of brahmacharya, or right use of energy, is just as important. That is, recognizing when you do have energy to push your limits, to build strength, to challenge yourself to do just a little more, including maybe things you’ve never done before. Because if we don’t challenge ourselves, we will never discover the true extent of our strength or possibility. As breast cancer survivors, in order to really challenge our limits, we sometimes have to confront fear. It is easy to be fearful, afraid that we just can’t do certain things because of our cancer treatment, or afraid that we might cause harm to ourselves if we try. This is one of my frustrations with some exercise offerings for cancer survivors, which just stay safe and only offer gentle yoga or other gentle types of activity, as though this is all we are capable of. Of course, gentle movement is extremely important at certain times, and so it does play a key role for us. But it isn’t the only thing we can do.
In my own recovery, I refused to believe that I would just be relegated to the gentle practice for the rest of my life. I was, and remain, intent on regaining the strength and flexibility to return to a full, strong, vigorous yoga practice. And I hope to convince you that you can do the same, IF that is what you are interested in. Maybe handstanding or other arm balances aren’t anything that you care about, and of course it is not important to develop any specific type of posture to be successful in your yoga journey. It isn’t about the individual postures themselves. What is important is using the physical practice to dig deep into yourself, to see your profound strength and resilience, to see your inner light, to learn to listen to that inner wisdom, and to there find the courage and confidence to challenge yourself to do whatever it is that you want to do. If gentle yoga is what you want and what you feel you really need, then gentle yoga is right for you. And there is nothing wrong with staying right there. But if you want a more vigorous practice, and you think it might be fun to learn new postures that look challenging, then drop the fear and trust yourself to try! We cancer survivors CAN do it. We just have to be a little more careful and a little more mindful than the average person, as we build the strength and flexibility necessary for more challenging postures. We have to take our time, slowly and methodically building our practice and making sure that at each new step our bodies are ready for the next challenge.
But being more mindful is one of the key things that the practice is about (and one of the ways the practice helps us in life off the mat). So in a way, being a cancer survivor, and having a few physical changes, like scar tissue, fibrosis, or asymmetry, actually makes the yoga journey that much better. Because we are forced to really be in tune with our bodies, to really feel what is going on as we progress in yoga, our practice truly becomes a meditation and a journey inward toward self-realization. And there, deep inside of us, where we see that inner light and get in touch with our true selves, is where all the good stuff is. Push yourself to get there and then take your time to see it. As Mooji says, “Step into the fire of self-discovery. That fire will not burn you. It will only burn what you are not”.