Do you ever wonder why so many people turn to yoga after a life changing experience? It is because yoga heals us in so many ways. Yoga and cancer both teach us to accept life as a journey; both invite us to practice vulnerability.
Many have said, “I need to get to your yoga class, but I’m just not that flexible.” If those people only knew that the pose is not what yoga is really about. It’s about vulnerability. It is about the journey.
As a practicing yoga teacher, I try to teach my students (who range in age from 3 to 91) that yoga is not about the clothes you wear or performing the perfect pose. Yoga is instead about what you learn inside yourself along the journey. In fact, yoga and cancer have many parallels. People refer to cancer as a journey. You go into cancer thinking you already know so much when in reality, you find out you knew nothing at all. With both yoga and cancer, you learn more about yourself than ever before.
Why can’t we let go of fear and practice vulnerability? The answer lies in the parallel between being on a yoga mat and sitting in a chemo room. Practicing vulnerability allows others to be there for you. Just ask a cancer patient who sits in a chemo chair for five hours to just breathe or a new yogi who walks into their first yoga class only to lie on their mat. Both require courage and vulnerability to start a new journey. Vulnerability is a gift you give to others and to yourself. It takes a lot of practice, however, especially for us strong, independent types.
Each week when I teach Yoga for Cancer, I build space for vulnerability. I open each class with our first asana (pose) teaching that breathing starts within and vulnerability starts within. When we are able to think, see, and feel within, the magical change starts to happen. Like me, many of my students are still going through chemo, radiation, PTSD, or the process of healing. As survivors we want to take our lives back but we sometimes slip into old patterns we had prior to cancer. We lose some of the practice of vulnerability that we once found in the chemo room or as a beginning yogi. We forget that the practice of vulnerability requires letting go of control. We allow ourselves to open up, because we don’t have expectations, and allow ‘possibility’ to flow through our hearts, minds and even deeper, our souls.
This simple practice of vulnerability allows our hearts to open and our minds to shift from fear and anxiety to possibility. I believe that teaching heart-opening poses will not only open the heart physically but will lead to an emotionally open heart as well. Whether you are sitting in a chemo room or lying on your yoga mat, you give yourself the gift of letting go of control of the expectations of doing yoga or the outcome of your cancer. You are open to breathe in things like strength, hope, compassion, love and kindness for yourself. Because when you allow yourself to be vulnerable, you don’t hope for a particular outcome; you allow for the possibility of letting go of what does not serve you and embracing what does.
Today, as you go through your daily life, I challenge you to open yourself up and be vulnerable. You never know what possibilities await.