This is a letter to survivors out there. I want to relate the experience I had with cancer, and yoga as part of recovery.
I was just on the edge of life and ready to go: happy, interested, bold. It was my senior year of high school and I was diagnosed with Hodgkins. The day I was diagnosed, I went to lunch as usual with my family. I remember sitting there covering it up. Looking at the same old world through a grave new perspective. That is what I was taught to do in my "Old Southern" upbringing. If whatever is going on can fit under that rug it goes under that rug.
No one had much to do with me except my oldest brother Patrick, who was always there for tea time. Once he bought me a black fur eastern European style hat. We’d watch British films for hours and talk about this and that. I was in bed for a year.
Illness is a lonely place. I knew my Savior though. I knew he was going to be with me and I was going to come out on the other side. He knows the way out for us. There was a very powerful deep consciousness that I had going through and coming out from under this experience. I lived, but not much was ever said about it. It fit under that rug.
Yoga came along three or four years later. I was in Costa Rica with my sister and picked up a flyer advertising beginners classes. I walked down the dirt path to the covered dojo at the cabinas near the Pacific Ocean. And so it was, that day in July 2004 I took my first yoga class with the beautiful Bathsheba Goveas in Cabinas Arco Iris in Tamarindo, Costa Rica.
The class Sheba taught was traditional sivanada and it lasted 90 minutes. We went through twelve basic poses with proper Sanskrit. The atmosphere was tranquil, noncompetitive and enlightening. After that first class I knew I was coming back without question. I was hooked.
There are two important things I gained from those first experiences. First, yoga is only as good as the teacher. Second, a new understanding which I told Bathsheba, “I realized I didn’t have to push myself so hard to get where I was going or to achieve what I needed.” Yoga is part of an intelligent way to live. It’s not an exercise in punishment.
Cancer is becoming an epidemic and is a direct result of something gone astray. Whether it was an attitude, chemical, or an immunization that gave me the virus that caused my lymphoma, I don’t think it's necessary to fear this epidemic. It is necessary to learn to live in a state of awareness and consciousness.
Every person must test themselves against what their environment or society is saying-- whether it’s food, images, immorality, belief systems, etc.. Going through chemotherapy was the only option I was given, but I truly believe that there may be holistic, naturopathic and spiritual ways of curing this disease, with out that pharmaceutical brutality which caused most of the dystrophy and imbalance that followed my illness.
Cancer is more complex than a just a diagnoses we're given. There are cancerous life styles and attitudes. When i find myself in negative circumstances, I turn again to yoga. For the past four years, I have practiced under an instructor (and now my best friend) Jennifer Wofsey at Yoga Bliss Studio. I have the same stillness each time.
I can relate my destructive experience with cancer to my strong yoga practice, with my deep connection to spirituality. I have chosen to gravitate towards one instead of the other because it makes me happy. Yoga brings me happiness every time I walk into a studio. I desperately need the consciousness and connection to my soul that the world does not provide. My life on the mat has travelled off the mat, and empowered me to live a life of true happiness.