Mastectomy chest stretch 

One of my favorite post mastectomy yoga stretching is laying on my back on a bolster (you could also use a rolled up towel or a pillow.)

Laying on your back with the bolster or pillow strait up the spine from the base of the spine to the neck or head. Let your shoulder fall off to the side opening the chest.

You can keep your arms to the sides and work on getting them out to the sides as you get the scar tissue or the tight muscles if the are above implants. This will slowly open up the muscles and will help get back to full range of motion. 

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Ahimsa – Non Violence 

I’ve always considered myself against violence. But in reality, I’ve been mad enough. I can use this reminder.

What it means to me? Being calm, not letting my anger get out of control. Loving more than fighting.

How can I practice in yoga? Loving my practice, no matter what struggles I have, being kind and loving to my body. 

How I practice in life? I’ve lately let spiders live. This has been a big struggle to not focus on them, watch them so I know where they go. It seems like a silly little thing but I’ve made peace with them. Knowing most of them won’t hurt me. Although I’ve had my share of bites, I know many more just live and move on their way eventually. 

How I plan on applying this limb more? Being kind and forgiving to myself and others. Live and let live. Knowing everyone has struggles I know nothing about. Everyone makes choices every day. Today, I’ll choose love over anger,  life over death, kindness and understanding over judgement. 

Yoga Family

I had surgery this Friday.  That being said, I tried to be at Teacher Training as much as possible.  Why?  It’s my yoga family. In my town!  I haven’t been to a training here in Wenatchee but it is so cool to have so many people that I truly adore coming to my home studio.  They have become a new family, my yoga family.

I feel about them like I do my “California Cousins.”  When they come to town, life as we know it stops.  You make sacrifices, you do what it takes to spend every second you can with them.

Also, they care for me.  I have people who really really care.  They don’t fake it, they don’t have to.  They don’t judge me or question it.  They are all completely real and completely real in their love and kindness.  They don’t have to try, they just do.  There is nothing like the relationship I have with my yoga family.  Love and respect.  Mutual understanding.  Unconditional acceptance.  If you don’t have a yoga family, you should.  And mine is pretty darn amazing.

I couldn’t make the hike yesterday, but I love these people.  Beautiful.  13411828_10100896627144203_772470144837506325_o

My story will be a Comedy

I heard something in the last few weeks that made me think.

It was along the lines of this: “Your life story can be a comedy or a tragedy. It depends on how much you choose to laugh.” 

So many things strike me about this story idea. It is how you tell your story. How you share that story and become a character in someone else’s story. I want to be a positive story 

I have lived a lot of my life, my story, as a tragic story. I try to take every positive spin, but if I had to pick one or the other, I know I’ve been “woe is me” more than I care to admit.  Sometimes the bad things just keep hitting and you feel like you never can get out of it. I’ve been there. Too many times. Plans going horribly wrong. 

I’m not talking about spraining my ankle the day before a triathlon (happened) or my third bout of chicken pox (yep, that too) or a Christmas Root Canal… I could go on but this is plenty. I’m talking loosing my mom, having a gene, years later I come to terms with removing my breasts and bang, I get misdiagnosed with cancer a week before I leave for the surgery. 

This is the times. It’s probably me, some how my fault. Or at least I rarely handle these stresses in the best manor. 

But thinking of my story this way. You almost have to laugh. And I will more because I haven’t enough. I just want to spend the rest of my days laughing at the bad. “Could only happen to me,” I’ll say. But my story is a comedy. It’s going to be fun to be a part of because I’ll always be the first to jump in* and come up laughing. 

*side story, in Mexico I was with a group, mostly couples, in a jungle. Side note: where they filmed predator.  Anyways, there was a rope swing-I headed right over. Knee surgeries be damned. You are only in this moment once. I jumped. Then all the males where up removing shirts. Ready now. 😆 my second jump left a huge bruise. But I came up laughing. Smiling from ear to ear. My story will be a comedy. Seeing the video, it was much less intimidating than it looked! And it is definitely comedic. 

Pain will always be part of life. We can try to avoid it, ignore it, or numb it. Maybe, maybe, we laugh at the absurdity of it and enjoy every moment. 

  

 

Fear

Fear can be the basis of many problems in my life. 

I don’t know how or when I started to become this nervous person. Let me get BRCA + for a minute. Maybe 10+ years of fighting a hypothetical disease, can cause some normal fear. 

But then you do the surgery to remove the risk. And you are left, well, I was, with a misplaced fear that has morphed into some irrational fears. I won’t even began to get into moths. But also just a general nervousness has manifested in day to day nerves.  
Yoga has started me on the track of settling the thoughts of fear and seperating them from true threats. Which are usually not there at all. 

Yoga has also taught me to put my fears in perspective. So many poses are easier than you think. Just that first step, the first time, once you pass that mental block, nothing can stop you.

Except the moths, those things are gross.

Pain

We usually do what it takes to avoid pain.  Emotionally, Physically, Psychologically.  We all do it.  What if we try to embrace the pain.

What would happen?  I tried it out last night at yoga.  In Savasana, the posture which gives you an opportunity for rest or it can be the place your mind can run wild.  It’s the last place you want to be in pain.

But I couldn’t help but notice that in my pain this thought came to me – embrace it.  Be in it.  Instead of trying to ignore it or move my leg around until it was in some sort of unpainful position, I embraced it.  I focused on it, and it stopped feeling so much like pain.  I thought loving thoughts towards it and a warmth came over the area.

In a hot yoga class, there is a lot of pain.  All types.  It is about learning to work through it.  Feel the pain and be in it.  There isn’t a choice to avoid it.  Once you are there, you are in it.  The heat, the sweat, the pain of the postures.  You have to stay in it the postures longer than you wanted to.  But you are in that moment.  The moment of pain being over is a sweet feeling and sometimes that sweet release is what happiness is all about.

Just think for a moment.  Are you trying to avoid the pain? Distracting, ignoring, numbing?  Pain can be good – here is just a few ways:

  1. Pain can teach you where you are weak.  It can make you stronger and smarter by just paying attention to it and trying to rehabilitate the area.
  2. Pain can teach you a lesson.  If you have had an injury because of something dumb (when have I haven’t had a dumbness related injury?) You will learn what not to do.  Live and learn.  Isn’t that all about experiencing pain in some way?
  3.  Pain or mourning can be a lovely reminder of how precious life is.  How delicate and fragile.
  4. Fear of pain or avoidance of pain is sometimes causing us more emotional strife than just going through the pain.
  5. Notice how when you are sick you just remember how wonderful it was to not be sick and how you definitely didn’t appreciate the not sick times enough?  Pain makes you appreciate the peace, the painlessness.
  6. Pain brings you into the moment.  If you focus on the pain and experiencing it you are there, in the moment of pain or pleasure – whichever you are in, you are experiencing life.

Embrace the pain.  Trust me, it isn’t so bad once you realize how much work it is to avoid it.

 

BRCA, my Family and Yoga

The past week has been filled with reflection on my family.  We had a death in the family which brought my family together for my mother’s uncle.  Not knowing him very well, I knew him as the Leap Year baby of the family.  I think I remember going to his 16th birthday party.  But it made me think about how much I love and value my uncles and aunts, cousins.  Loosing a parent, one of their siblings, bonds you.  There is a gap there where she should be and although it should bring us closer, I think that gap is always unspoken.  We lost the person who connects us.

But at this funeral I also had the opportunity to meet someone I knew only by blood.  Specifically, our shared genetic mutation.  I believe we are the only two in our family in our generation to be passed this legacy.  Looking into the eyes of someone who you don’t know, yet you share so much, a pain, a sorrow, a fear maybe.  Something binds us that is greater than understanding.  It’s blood.

In yoga, this has brought up the struggles that my chest poses that I don’t talk about enough.  But I do want to talk about it because I know there are other women out there like me that had a prophylactic mastectomy and many more that have had cancer and a mastectomy. So a latest guide to the world of mastectomy yoga:

  • Hatha Yoga is a great place to start if you have had a mastectomy.  The stretching aspect will really help open the chest without putting weight onto the chest muscles.
    • Let me back up – Something like a plank or downward dog, side plank especially puts your body weight in a position that uses primarily the chest muscle.  For me, all of these postures are extremely uncomfortable and has taken a lot of work to be able to do what “normies” do easily.  If your reading and you haven’t had a mastectomy here’s what it feels like – do anything flexing your chest muscle.  For me, I do that and it’s squeezing a baseball into my chest.  Let’s just say it doesn’t feel good.  Hatha yoga doesn’t have any of those chest squeezing postures.  It does however have chest opening which is wonderful after any chest surgeries.
  • Vinyasa/Power/Fusion These all are “next level” when I talk about chest squeezing.  It is into balancing on arms, progressive pressure.  Post-Mastectomy these are the most difficult classes.  The Chaturanga push up is near impossible to me.  I constantly have to make modifications and at some point want to make a video to show the different ways I have modified this common posture.
    • I have to note, this is very likely can be different to the type of surgery that you have.  I have a friend that can do an awesome chaturanga and she has also had surgery.  For me, it is very challenging.
  • Yin – You need this.  Doesn’t matter where you are in recovery, this will relax you, open your chest, let all the stress from the back muscles that have been protecting your chest go.  It’s amazing.  For anyone really recovering from surgery, Yin yoga is an easy way to love your body while you are recovering.  It’s like an hour long gift to your muscles.

Other things like side planks I just can’t do.  I’m always on my knee.  I am starting arm balancing which is super exciting.  It’s actually easier than the typical flow because the strength is in the arms and usually the chest isn’t working.  What I love about yoga in general, there’s always an inch farther, a new and challenging posture and growth even in the hardest/mundane.  For me my latest breakthrough (if you know yoga, you’ll know this one) Three legged dog, to stacked hips, to wild thing, back to three legged dog.

Give love today.  Give love everyday.