My friends and those people who know me possibly know how much I love my practice. I don’t shy away from backbends and balancings, but what most my students don’t know is how much I struggled with Sarvangasana (shoulder stand) in my early years. But persistence and a lot of chair Sarvangasana during my pregnancy changed my perception and my ability. Today Sarvangasana, its variations and alternatives are no longer associated with struggle and tension in the jaw. Yes I started enjoying them and love the calming, cooling quality they bring to my body and mind.
When I sat for my JI1 assessment back in October 2016 in Canberra Australia, my practice was strong and I enjoyed the process of the assessment, knowing my strength. Although I didn’t pass, I knew I’m on the right path. In November I travelled to Pune in India for the 3rd time – but for the first time I would attend classes at the Institute. (You can read more about it in one of my past blogposts.) It was an awesome time and my practice was at its strongest.
Stephanie Quirk has been involved in the Therapy class at Marrickville Yoga for the last two years and I was fortunate enough to learn from her in 2016. I happened to work quite close with some of the students with breast cancer. So when I was diagnosed myself, one of the first phone calls was to her, asking how I should adapt my practice. She recommended the Practice for the Immune System given by Guruji with certain modifications. I used ropes and head support for most asanas and the arms were always horizontally to the side and supported to get space and softness through the armpits.
After moving to Germany, I made a trip to Switzerland to have a private session with Kerstin Khattab. Kerstin and Rita Keller have developed a program for breast cancer and it was great to get some advice on what to look for in my practice from Kerstin.
Over the next few weeks my body changed significantly. It must have been a combination of the progression of the cancer cells in my bones (everywhere else it seemed stable), plus possibly a lack of sufficient practice. I had constant pain in my back and ribs, and I ended up crying by the time I went to bed, because I wasn’t able to lie on the back straight. It was similar when getting up, I was not able to stand straight and I could not even breathe for the first few moments. My husband, my daughter and my friend Corina suffered as much as I did during this time, if not more. They were very concerned about my welfare.
The MRI’s showed a few fractures in the bodies of the vertebrae in the Thoracic and upper lumbar region. In addition kidney and liver values all of a sudden didn’t look good. So after weeks of resisting to have Chemotherapy I eventually felt the need for it. For some reason I was never afraid much of the tumors in the breast, but not being able to move – for me – was one of the worst things than can happen.
I still wanted to practice yoga. But even just doing a Savasana lying flat on the floor was only possible with a few minutes of tears and moaning like a sick animal. Only then I could relax enough to enjoy the pose and its benefits. My back was so bad I could not even lift a bolster. So practising did become difficult – but I found ways and poses to do.
My strength had minimised. I could not walk on the street without hooking under a friend’s arm. My posture looked dreadful as my back started to curve forward, but I was determined to do something. I finally got on my Viparita Dandasana bench with my knees bent so that I could lie straight and my back was flat, again I had to take deep breath before it got easier. I started going back by small increments and stayed for over 5 minutes at each stage and it worked. I felt good and straighter after I had done it.
At the end of April my doctor suggested that I come to the clinic as an inpatient to receive radiation to my thoracic and cervical spine because a few segments were endangering the spinal cord. I could not imagine staying in hospital without my yoga props, so I took my Viparita Dandasana bench plus six bolsters for other poses. When my friend dropped me at the clinic we needed the big trolley to get my things in the room.
The doctors and nurses looked puzzled when noticing the bench, and reminded me that I have to be very careful with my spine. I was working very diligently and carefully over the next few weeks and when my friend came for a visit 3 weeks later she was surprised how upright and well I looked.
Finally, my practice had become my reliable companion again.
Please note: Those images very during my privat with Kerstin Khattab in January, I cannot use the plank support but use a blanket at the moment.