The things you can’t see changing in a yoga practice (the yoga of a skin cancer).

In yoga, we feel shifts and changes in our practices; on Monday my balance was great, Tuesday I was shaking like a leaf on one leg, Wednesday my hamstrings were long, Thursday I was stiff as a plank of wood etc. We recognise and accept that we are different each time we come to the mat, we are organic, we are evolving

A sustained, continued practice sees us make great physical leaps, when I first started the floor was so far away in uttanasana (standing forward bend), then it was close, then I found it, then I had to take my arms wide as I could lay my palms flat, my back still rounded out, now my back is reasonably flat and head nearly touches my shins (most days ;)) . The physicality of my practice is continually evolving and often a step forward is proceeded by a step backwards. I’ve noticed this so much more since the birth of my daughter 16 months ago, while my strength and flexibility are probably ‘better’ than before I was pregnant, some asana have escaped me completely, such as padmasana (lotus pose) it’ll be there one day.

Recently, it is the yoga off the mat that has me thinking about change, how yoga changes us. This thought process has come about through a change I recently went through, I had a skin cancer removed. No big deal, except it kind of was- 11 stitches in my face 2 x internal, 9 x external. The face I’ve known for 30 years, the face while not the most perfect, I’m rather fond of. Its the face my soul resides underneath, the face that my two favorite people my husband and daughter know, love and trust.

My face has changed forever and what surprises me is, I’m ok with it. What has this got to do with yoga i hear you ask? My answer, heaps! How I was barely attached to the vanity of it, even now, while it still looks angry and is healing and people stare at it and when strangers ask me what happened, I view their curiosity with compassion. (ok, I’ve had my moments where I’ve been a little attached to the vanity but I love this Ram Dass quote In most of our human relationships, we spend much of our time reassuring each other that our costumes of identity are on straight. My besties and husband had to do a little reassuring)

When I first had it cut out and the stitches were tight and painful, I didn’t wallow, I felt so blessed that the dermatologist had found it, it was removed and that as a person that grew up in harsh Australian desert was having her first spot cut out at 30.

Each day as I rub rosehip oil into the long red and purple healing scar with gratitude I think about how lucky I am to be able to have this scar to encourage my daughter to wear a hat and sunscreen when she plays outside and part of me secretly hopes she will think the scar is pretty cool, maybe even a bit like Harry Potter’s. I have gratitude I have this experience to be more careful outside in the sun, gratitude for the guts to wear fabulous hats. Gratitude that maybe my story will make you mindful of any changes to your skin and your sun exposure.

It is yoga that has taught me to not be so attached to the ‘shell’, yoga that has taught me to be compassionate to find gratitude and accept things and the way they unfold. It is this experience that has had me stop and go, wow I’ve really changed, yoga has changed me.

Thanks, yoga.

Namaste- don’t forget to slip, slop, slap! xxx

Stitches

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The magic of a Sunday

ImageSunday is one day of the week when wonderful things happen, yesterday was one of those days (till I got sick). In the morning Tom finally decided he was ready to do some yoga but we are still negotiating how exactly that is going to work. I go into most physical activities with an element of steely determination, this is not necessarily a good thing, I’m constantly looking for a softness in my practice and years of practicing without that softness and overworking requires retraining of my brain and body, healing of hardened muscles and allowing flexibility. My initial response to his  pained ‘facial yoga’ and lack of flexibility is that its laziness and a personal insult. I know I sound incredibly uncompassionate, but I’m not, with all physical exertion there are sensations of discomfort, even pain and these feelings tell us things are normal and theses parts of the body could do with a bit of one on one attention. In most circumstances if you listen to your body, it will tell you when things are not right, when you are using too much force, when you are going beyond your boundaries and range of motion. To increase strength and flexibility there will be some discomfort and the more you do it the easier it becomes. Part of the discipline that comes with a yoga practice is acknowledging, things will hurt, but there is a glimpse of freedom next time you do it.

Anyway, we still had a lovely time and I felt so strong in my inversions, Tom confessed to me this morning that he had felt really nice after yoga 🙂

All morning I had something on my mind, I had very long hair and I loved my long hair, lately it was getting me down a little. At my last trip to the hairdressers she had mentioned a program called Beautiful Lengths where you could donate a minimum of 20cm ponytail to be made into real human hair wigs for those undergoing cancer treatment. At the time, though impressed with the program, I was too vain to part with my ponytail. Although, on the magical Sunday morning, I woke up pretty sure I would chop off my ponytail at some point throughout the day.

I washed my hair, and looked at how long it was wet in the mirror, doing my best Brooke Shields Blue Lagoon impression. The morning came and went; yoga, then brunch, reading, a movie, all the while I twirled my hair and contemplated parting with it. I thought about how long I had been growing it and how, I was almost defined by it in lots of ways. In the late afternoon Tom had to go out. Before Tom left he suggested to perhaps wait and get a hairdresser to cut it off, I but I really wanted to do it myself. I tied my hair into a low pony and awkwardly measured the 20cm minimum and began hacking away. I say hacking because my scissors were rubbish and half way through I had to switch to my good embroidery scissors. (This was a very pensive moment when I wasn’t sure if I could actually finish the job, I was having heart palpitations looking for scissors stopping in front of every mirror in the house to assess the hacked at messy half a ponytail!)

Eventually I got through and smiled at my ponytail, my measuring hadn’t been great I had actually cut off 25cm, but i still have plenty. I thought about how attached i had been to such impermanent part of my body. I’m certainly not attached to the hair I pull from the drain or have to unravel from the vacuum cleaner head, it is always growing!

Attachment is a key issue in my life and I am trying to live more simply and learn to ‘unattach’ myself from thoughts, things and behaviors and I think starting with my ponytail was a good beginning.

ImageI can remember so many magical things that have happened on Sundays. Sundays come with a sense of impermanence and can teach us a lot about attachment- throughout my teens I never enjoyed Sunday’s because I kept thinking that Monday was just around the corner. Now they are my most favourite day. Tom and I said we loved each other for the first time on a drizzly Sunday morning, Sundays are for swimming and lounging around, they are for watching Soccer matches at friends houses, afternoon beers, and morning yoga classes and always a special breakfast or brunch.

Namaste

xxxx