Feeling Strong AF?

How are you feeling today? Hopefully strong AF, but it is certainly understandable if we don’t quite feel that vigorous every day. And it is really important that we are honest with ourselves about how we are doing. Cancer treatment can knock the stuffing out of us, both physically and emotionally. You know all of the ways that surgery, radiation, chemo, and hormonal therapy can zap that energy, so I don’t need to list them here. What I do want to talk about is how to start building that strength, energy, and confidence back. This is a common theme for me, as it was really important to me to feel that I would be able to get back to feeling strong, capable, independent, and healthy. Don’t get me wrong, learning to admit that I needed help and how to gracefully accept that help was a really great lesson for me and I’m so grateful that I learned it. But I didn’t want to stay there if I didn’t have to. Physical fitness was always important to me, and I wanted to continue to have that in my life. But I recall really not knowing what my future would hold, what recovery would look like, and just how much of my strength I would be able to recover. I didn’t know, at first, how much I could trust my body, and I was afraid of injuring myself and my newly healing scars. So if you are in that space, I feel you. And I hope to encourage you, to help you safely and carefully navigate this time of uncertainty, to help you find your own way to rediscovering your strength and empowering yourself in whatever way you choose. Because it is there, deep within you, that you will find your way through.

Obviously yoga doesn’t have to be vigorous to bring huge benefits to its students. Much of the meditative aspect of the practice, the self-study, the connecting of breath to body and body to mind, and so much more; can be done in a slow, gentle practice. And these truly are some of the most important benefits of the practice of yoga. But for some of us (myself included), building the physical vigor of the practice carries additional benefits that can be so helpful and transformative. For example, we learn to really connect with ourselves so we can accurately identify the point of balance between effort and ease, knowing when we can push harder and when we need to back off. Getting comfortable navigating this space helps us rebuild the confidence and trust in our bodies, and increases our insight. As we challenge ourselves physically and mentally on the mat, while practicing maintaining calm breath and mind, we also train our nervous systems to build resilience and balance deep within the body. The more vigorous practice also gives us more of an aerobic aspect to the exercise, which is helpful for cardiovascular health as well as weight maintenance. The patience required to progress slowly and mindfully makes us more able to be patient in other areas of our lives. And finally, seeing ourselves get stronger (in body and mind) is so truly empowering, reminding us of the immense well of strength and resilience that is there within us, even at those times when we might lose sight of it.

As I say all the time, yoga isn’t about mastering certain postures, looking fancy or acrobatic, or standing on your head, but rather about all that we learn and how we grow along the way as we practice. So it doesn’t matter how vigorous your practice is, as long as you feel like it is helping you along your journey. But if building strength and vigor in your practice is something that sounds good to you, know that you can do it. You may need to do it very slowly, but you CAN do it. And if you’d like some guidance, I’d love to help! I have just loaded a bunch of new medium strength and vigorous practices to the members only video library for those of you who feel ready to start turning up the intensity. Remember to really listen to your body, to start low, go slow, and use your body as your guide. If you really tune in, it will tell you what it needs.


Getting comfortable with impermanence

What if?? What if we could do that? Just sit down and enjoy the ride, even when things are tough, even when big changes come, and even when those changes bring things that are not in line with our preferences. Rather than being disheartened, rather than being filled with sadness or anger, or feeling like our whole world has fallen apart. Because truly, this IS the way life is. This is what it means to be human (Pema Chodron is brilliant!). Right? As they say, the only constant in life is change. Things are constantly changing. Our skin wrinkles, we change jobs, friends come and go in our lives, we move to far away places, we get divorced, and the world around us changes just as much (think technology, fads, politics, everything!). Our preferences even change and something that we find really pleasing today might not be enjoyable at all 5 years from now. The way we think about things changes with ongoing experience and perspective. Our bodies change, be it through childbirth, cancer surgery, other disease, injury, or just natural aging. Sadly, we also all lose friends and family members at some point along the way, a change that can be the most devastating because of its permanence.

This brings me to the point. That truly, most things are impermanent. And it is our resistance to this idea that makes us suffer the most. As Thich Nhat Hanh said, “It is not impermanence that makes us suffer. What makes us suffer is wanting things to be permanent when they are not”. Why do we think that things should stay the same forever? And why would we want that, even if we could flip some magical switch and make it so? Without change, we would never grow and learn. Sure, maybe things would be easier and more comfortable. But that just isn’t reality. Change is just the way life is. It is part of being human. So why shouldn’t we learn to just lean into that change, to let go of our reflex to resist it or strain against it, and to embrace it and all that it may bring us. Ahhhhh the freedom that comes when we release all of that tension and resistance, and just open ourselves to the natural flow of things.

Having cancer sure gives us a lesson in impermanence and change. Our bodies change, our hair changes (although some of that can be a welcome change πŸ˜‰ ), even our eyebrows change! Our priorities change, they way we value our relationships changes (some in one direction and others, another), the way we plan for our future changes, and the way we enjoy even life’s little moments changes. Some of the changes suck big time, but others are really a breath of fresh air. The good news is, even when those really sucky changes come rolling in, we can remember impermanence and know that they won’t stay forever.

Yoga practice actually provides a nice place to practice impermanence, as our practice definitely changes all the time. Some days we feel stronger, some days less so, sometimes we must adapt the practice for an injury or an illness. There may be some years when power yoga is what feels really good to us, and others where we need the slow quiet introspection of yin yoga. But this is a beautiful thing about yoga, that it can change and morph with us, supporting us in whatever phase or stage of life we are in, helping us to roll with those changes, accepting them as a part of our human experience.

At first glance, this idea of impermanence might seem depressing (what do you mean my beloved pet won’t be by my side forever?!), but with a little practice in adjusting our perspective, it can actually help us enjoy life even more, by encouraging us to really be present and appreciate the good times, rather than being distracted and taking them for granted. AND, understanding impermanence makes dealing with the trying times so much easier, by helping us remember that, no matter how hard this moment seems, it won’t be like this forever. So in truth, recognizing impermanence can be a really healthy practice and a helpful coping mechanism.

I hope that today you are finding it easy to just sit back and enjoy the ride.