The Healing Power of Yoga
Tammy Hervitz – yoga teacher, friend and all round good egg – writes a very touching piece about her battle with breast cancer and the challenges she faced and how these affected her daily life and practice. A must-read.
Once I read in a book about diseases and their causes that the word crisis in the Chinese language is made out of 2 characters that mean danger on the one hand and opportunity on the other. Certainly a disease like cancer is one big crisis.
There are many ways to survive a crisis on a physical or emotional level. There is no one answer for everyone. It seems that the most important thing in order to survive is one’s attitude – an open mind, being self-responsible and a positive attitude are necessary. I can only share my little story with you in hope that it can help.
When I discovered a little lump in my right breast I new it was cancer. Ever since I heard my aunt speak about the first time she was diagnosed I knew it was going to come. I wasn’t worried about it. It was like accepting a fact. I said to myself, ¨Well, now that it is here I will kick its ass and get it over with”. What I didn’t know at that time was that it was a genetic BRCA1 mutation that runs in my family from my father’s side. My grandmother died from it, my father got it in the colon, my aunt is now fighting a fourth one and my youngest sister is also a carrier.
In a way, I was preparing myself for this challenge. I gathered information about the food and pharmaceutical industries, and their alternatives. And there was always the yoga practice that was already very rooted into my daily routine. 15 years of daily practice and teaching. The practice of yoga helped me arrange my life and basically grounded me to the present, to the source, to life.
I had to deal with a burning fiery mind, some traumatic past events and a lot of emotional “stuff”. I had to do a real deep cleansing, to get rid of a lot of rubbish and sticky attachments. This is actually what the yoga practice is all about. But there was still work to be done…
I decided to go through the conventional treatments – surgery and chemotherapy – together with all the alternative natural organic food and supplements. I had a lot of tumeric, green tea, ginger and olive oil – nothing processed, all fresh organic vegetables and fruits, and cannabis oil. And of course the daily yoga practice.
Many times we hear from masters and sages that one needs to hit bottom in order to breakthrough and grow. What does it mean? How come we have to go so low and suffer so much? When illness comes, a deeper understanding of life can take place. Time is precious and there is no time to lose. We spend so much time on nonsense, on gossip, on worrying about tomorrow or living in the past. We create problems that don’t exist and we get entangled in them so they become our reality. A life threatening disease can be a good opportunity to get rid of all of that. A major cleansing happens in relationships with other people and with yourself. The clarity of mind, as much as the treatments permits, is important and takes large amount of energy to keep.
It is very easy to freak out completely. Depression is just sitting there waiting for you to call and it would be completely justified. The body and mind are out of control because of the chemotherapy, as if a sort of alien has taken you over. It feels like a constant tsunami all the time with side effects manifesting themselves in different ways in every moment.
The yoga practice makes it easier. It helps to be in touch with the core, with the source of strength which resides inside every human being. This force is love and it is strong within you and also from your surroundings. Everything is reduced to here and now. There is only present time. The doctors take over your schedule, you are separated from your routine, from the rhythm and movement of life. You must keep all your energy in one place, trust and surrender with humbleness.
Actually it is an opportunity to grow. Every experience we go through in life is an opportunity to change, to learn, to grow. And you don’t even have to make an effort. Things just drop away and the truth unfolds in front of you where you look. If you want. You have to choose and you always do choose. Even not choosing is a choice.
When you can’t do anything and you just lay there on the sofa, with a bald head covered with a hat, with nausea and disease literally in every part of the body and you can even see it disintegrating, the mind is like a chewing gum and completely not to be trusted. You see your loved ones watching a football match and they are shouting, laughing and alive, and you are wasted not perceiving correctly and not being able to participate. Going from full independence to full dependency, then you discover this essence that is just observing, not doing, not reacting, just observing, witnessing, simply present.
In every step of the way true and deep gratefulness appear in the heart. Every stage is so tough and hard and every battle won fills the heart with joy and appreciation. You understand in your heart how little one needs and how easy it is to live just now in the present and be content and happy. It’s been a bit more than three years since I was diagnosed and treated. Although I am back to my routine and to life, I can say that in a way I am still recovering. Doing things in a different way from another perspective. More peaceful, more happy, here and now, enjoying simple things.
For the rest of my life I will carry it in me. Maybe it will come back and maybe it won’t. So, why worry? Don’t we all have the chance of that happening? Do we really know anything about the future? We think we know ourselves and have control of our lives, but actually we don’t have a clue.
We cannot avoid pain but we can avoid suffering.
We cannot stop the body or mind or life and all that surrounds us from changing. But we can accept the fact that everything IS changing and transforming.
We cannot change the past but we can forgive ourselves and others.
We waste so much time worrying about small silly things, holding on to things, people, places, ideas and moments that are long gone or forever changing, until they become toxic. And on top of it we worry about the unknown future. All of it creates so much confusion, stress, anxiety, fear and exhaustion. We forget to look at the sky, the trees, the sea, we forget the sun and the different lights it sheds on the earth. We forget how to relax, we forget to breathe.
Take care of yourself without obsession. Appreciate every day, good or bad, be grateful for still waking up every morning. As long as you are still here, breathing, you have a chance to be happy, to love, to live life to the full. Being more in tune with the flowing of life all you need will present itself in front of you at the right moment. Life will take care of you.