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.