Yoga Times: New Body

About four months after my excision surgery and hysterectomy, I decided it was time to go back to yoga. I was certainly not 100% healed at that point - far from it. But I was feeling scared and weak and disconnected from my body. Even before the surgery, I was in terrible physical pain and could not go for a walk, let alone get through a yoga class. The surgery and recovery hit me hard - I knew it was going to be a long road to recovery, but I was stunned at how weak I was, and how much strength and endurance I’d lost. I don’t think I’ve ever been so physically vulnerable in my life. It was nothing short of terrifying. 

I’ve practiced yoga on and off for about ten years. I have always liked yoga. I liked the stretch and the flow and the strength training. It was always a struggle to settle my mind during classes, which is part of the work. It was challenging, but I never really pushed myself very hard to try new things. Yoga was great, but wasn’t exactly my “thing.” It was a thing, and it worked for me sometimes. However, given my circumstances post-op, I knew it would be my path back to strength and peace and calm. 

Thankfully, I was already connected with an incredible teacher and healer in my community**. S and I met over a year ago when she agreed to let me host a monthly infertility support group at her studio for free. She’s one of the good ones. Going back to physical activity, I knew I needed more than just physical support. I needed someone who would understand the fear and the doubt, and who would help build all of me back up, not just my core strength. 

During my first class with S I told her my about my surgery, about my pain, about my recovery. I cried. And cried. And cried. We laid on the floor and I tried to learn how to breath again. We worked on releasing tension and recognizing fear and how it affects my body. We talked about my pelvic floor. A lot. I didn’t do one single downward dog, and honestly, I probably couldn’t have. One of the things that S helped me see what that we all have stories about our bodies and how they feel and what they can do. Post-op, I was dealing with New Body. We don’t know anything about it. We are learning. New Body is hurting, but it will recover. Don’t judge it, and don’t form perceptions about it just yet. Don’t carry over past perceptions about what Old Body could or couldn’t do. I learned to identify when fear was talking and when truth was being spoken. I learned that my abs were strong and my quads were not. I learned how to breath into my belly. I learned how to cry it out and come back to focus. It was exhausting.

After a few more private sessions, my confidence grew. New Body hadn’t completely disconnected from Old Body. Ten years of yoga were still in my bones, and things started to come back. I learned how to protect myself, how to push myself when I could, and when to say “I don’t have to do this right now.” And I cried. And cried. And cried. At first S didn’t understand why I was walking out of the studio at random times during classes. I needed to step away and let the tears out, and move through my grief, and then come back to the mat. Finally, I made it back to regular classes, and I’ve been practicing and practicing for six months now. 

I have learned so much in these past few months through my yoga practice, emotionally and physically. I truly believe that yoga has saved me and healed me. I am stronger than I have ever been in my adult life. DID YOU HEAR THAT, ENDO? I AM STRONGER. I am working on doing head stands unassisted. I spent ten years saying “nope” to headstands. Now I feel giddy when we practice them, and I beam when I pop my legs up over my hips, and over my head. 

I know that I have limits, and the reality of my disease(s) means that I am not 100% every time I come to my mat. Endo always comes with me. Fatigue comes, too. Today, an IC flare followed me there. Most of my teachers know my story and where I’m coming from. But that doesn’t impact the way they teach me. I’m not coddled or accommodated. But we know my hips are tight as hell, and we know why. And that helps. 

The dharma side of yoga has helped, too. Talking about truth and impermanence and struggle and pain and joy and practicing how we live have all helped me cope with my healing, my grieving, my new reality, my New Body. 

I’ve been thinking about this post for months now, and there’s so much I want to share here about my yoga practice. I hope to have more blog posts about it coming soon! I don’t think I’ve ever worked so hard on building a connection with my body. And, after being so incredibly broken, I am so incredibly thankful for the tools and the teachers that have helped me get here.

Namaste.

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**I practice at Shambhala Yoga Center in Beacon, NY with Shannon Brandt

PS. Yes I know I sound like a big freaking hippie yogi right now. Believe me, no one is more surprised about this than I am. 

PPS. I am also aware of how lucky I am to have had the support and space and time to do so. much. yoga. Blessed.