I can still remember the first time I walked into the Wednesday evening class I now teach regularly. I was incredibly nervous and not feeling very confident. I opened the door and exchanged furtive glances with about six equally nervous beings, all in various stages of cancer treatment. The hospital where I teach yoga had just received a grant to start an Integrated Medicine program specifically for cancer patients. Everyone involved was feeling equal parts excited and cautiously expectant. I had only ever taught vigorous Vinyasa flow. I had no idea what to expect. And adding to my fear was my resistance to dealing with cancer on any level, even though it wasn’t happening to me.
As the weeks turned into months and then years (four-and-a-half so far), I learned a lot about cancer and the often-terrible toll it takes on an individual and his or her family, but I also learned much more about how to live authentically and compassionately—and how truly wonderful and magical yoga can be.
Throughout these many Wednesday nights, students have come in and out of practice. Some have gone into remission and back into the world, while sadly, others have passed on. But many remain—not because they’re sick, but because they have come to depend upon our weekly sadhana as a way to maintain a healthy body and mind.
Cancer, they tell me, has taught them to stop racing through life – it’s made them understand and appreciate every single second in a way that only something this devastating can. And the love and support that flows between us all in every class is like a cushion of light. And this light is able to shine because of yoga – each mat serving as a laboratory for self–realization and discovery— a serene and loving space to investigate our bodies and quiet our minds.
We’ve shared many, many life experiences – birthdays, retirements, a clean bill of health —and these days I often find myself looking forward to Wednesdays so that I can figure out how to illuminate some personal situation. Because my friends are wise. Cancer has shown them how to comfort, and how to laugh, and most of all, how to really LIVE. And yoga continues to provide a path for further transformation.
This issue of Fit Yoga is dedicated to each of them: Joan, Susan, Ned, Norma, Robin, Janet, Donna, Janet K., and all the others who have shared our practice. Thank you all for helping me find my truest self and shining your lights in my heart.
And to all our Fit Yoga readers, I urge you to stop, take a moment to breathe, then send out into the universe an intention of gratitude. We are so lucky to be yogis.