Mindfulness in Movement

I started yoga teacher training in May of this year, 4.5 years after my Stage 2 breast cancer diagnosis, as a way to make myself exercise. I hadn’t done yoga since my diagnosis and I in no way look the part of your typical yoga teacher, so teacher training sounded and felt a little insane. But I’m coming to realize that I wanted to force myself not just to exercise, but to get back into my body and feel mindfulness in movement. I wanted to have no choice in the matter. To make it a moral imperative.

Giving Up

In the last 5 years I’ve had a double mastectomy, 3 reconstructions, and 4 rounds of chemo. I’ve gained 30 pounds. I’ve loved, honored, cherished, and conversely abused, hated, and flat-out refused to be present in my body. Yoga is my way to gently make myself be present again. To sit with the frustration that my body doesn’t work the same anymore. That there’s more of me than before. That my fake boobs won’t get out of my way during a twist. That my chest muscles cramp and seize. That I gave up on this body a long time ago.

After my reconstructions, I struggled with chemo brain and severe Tamoxifen-induced suicidal depression. The fatigue and depression were so bad that I spent almost a full year doing little more than sleeping and watching TV. I had to quit my job because I couldn’t focus and I didn’t care. We went bankrupt. My friends dumped me. I gave up on my life.

Finding Presence

It wasn’t until my Wellbutrin dose was increased that I began to feel more and more like myself again. I started making plans. Taking classes. Dreaming again. Looking to the future and what I wanted that to look like (a yoga retreat center offering free retreats to breast cancer patients). And I wanted to get still. So still I could feel present in my body again and maybe even experience myself as part of the collective unconscious – part of the universe, part of everything. This brought my mind back to my previous yoga classes with my favorite teacher. I looked her up and she happened to be offering teacher training the following month. I immediately signed up with no hesitation. The calm, still presence she shares is what I wanted to feel again.

The first two yoga training classes, we did an hour or two of yoga each day to get present and learn some poses and proper alignment. During both of these classes, I found myself angry – at myself for being out of shape, at the teachers for making us hold poses longer than I wanted, at being in this body that’s been through so much and feels so broken. After each class, I had to walk away from everyone for a few minutes. I sat with my anger and let it wash over me. I breathed through it and held myself as I cried. I allowed myself to feel those feelings that came up and then I found ways to be kind to myself so I could heal.

Bubbling Anger

The first two yoga training classes, we did an hour or two of yoga each day to get present and learn some poses and proper alignment. During both of these classes, I found myself angry – at myself for being out of shape, at the teachers for making us hold poses longer than I wanted, at being in this body that’s been through so much and feels so broken. After each class, I had to walk away from everyone for a few minutes. I sat with my anger and let it wash over me. I breathed through it and held myself as I cried. I allowed myself to feel those feelings that came up and then I found ways to be kind to myself so I could heal.

 

 

After about 10 yoga sessions I’m finding that I can be present without the anger. And I’m actually finding that I feel joyful in my body. I feel stronger, more capable, more me. In the places I had let my body crumple in on itself, I found that it really wants to be strong. It wants to feel aligned. It wants to feel like anything is possible again. It doesn’t want me to give up.

Emotional Strength

Yoga is making me strong, not just physically, but emotionally as well. I’m learning to allow my feelings to come up and just notice them as I breathe and move. I’m also learning that my body is ok just as it is. It doesn’t have to be anything more than what it is right now. I know I’ll keep getting stronger. I’ll keep learning to accommodate any limitations I may have with my chest. And most importantly, I’ll keep growing in my own self-love and acceptance.
I’ll keep finding that sweet, soft, centered space where all that anger used to live.

And that feels like freedom.

  • Breast cancer life coach, tarot reader, yoga instructor, and all-around badass.

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