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.

 

 

Advertisements

The Hydration Game – 30 Day Challenge – week 2

Here we go on to week 2 of the 30 day challenge.  This is the week where you realize what you are getting yourself into.  You are sore and tired.  You think, this is hard!  Yes!  It is.  But so worth it.  Remember your intention and keep going.  This is the week to dig in your heels, commit and if you haven’t already, start taking care of your body.

My usual struggle is with water.  Drinking enough to offset the constant amount of loss through sweating in that hour, every day.  Drinking enough and keeping it in me is key after 7 classes.  I am not a doctor (NOT A DOCTOR) but I have been dehydrated many times during these challenges and it is a real struggle for me to stay hydrated. Things to look for if you are dehydrated which may be a little different than typical dehydration symptoms but what I notice, because I’m not a doctor. 😉

Typical

  • Dry mouth – this is the typical thing to watch for.  Of course if you are thirsty, drink.  I don’t deal with this because I am almost constantly drinking water during this challenge.  So I instead with hot yoga change this thing to watch for

Hot Yoga

  • Dry skin, lips, eyes – I will notice these first showing me that the water is not getting through my system, it is likely passing through.  I look for ways to retain water.

 

Typical

  • Sweating may stop – this makes me laugh.  If you are in hot yoga and you stop sweating you might want to step out.  That isn’t right.  But in all seriousness, that is a very bad sign but this has never happened to me in hot yoga.  I am nearly always sweating.  I am still sweating in the shower 30 minutes after class.

Hot Yoga

  • Muscle cramps – This is the first thing I notice when I am not getting enough water.  Certain poses will immediately cramp my muscle.  My muscle of choice is my hamstring.  It cramps, oh geeze, I need water.

Typical

  • Dizziness – I get dizzy on a semi regular basis in yoga class.  It probably means I need water, it couldn’t hurt.  But sometimes being upside down for a minute and then coming up might make anyone dizzy on any given day.  I’m not a doctor.  Did I mention that?  – Not a doctor.

Hot Yoga

  • Confusion – When I come out of yoga class I sometimes feel a dazed hazy feeling.  Not confused, more out of it and needing time before I can hold a conversation or figure out what I am doing next.  In these 30 day challenges while the studio is packed full of people sometimes I wander around trying to figure out how to get in and get my water.  It’s like a maze that takes me a little longer to navigate.  I probably need water.

 

At this point in the challenge, hydration is key.  Keep drinking water.  Add in fresh juices.  If you feel like you are experiencing symptoms and you don’t feel well, take care of yourself first.  Take an extra Yin class.  It’s not hot so you don’t sweat as much and it is relaxing and can stretch out those tired muscles.

Keep going challengers!  And by the way:

6327585380_b06b4306af_o

Silent Yoga

Tonight was the first ever “Silent Yoga”  I don’t know where to start to describe this class.  It was amazing.  Unlike anything I have experienced in yoga so far.  In the pose, I knew what to do.  Hours and hours of practice had prepared me.

Maybe I should back up and say, I am definitely a silence is golden type and in the class in a meditative place where it is just me in my head.  No other sounds, no distractions.  Just me.  Yet, I wasn’t alone.  The breath around me, it breaths life into your poses, the energy lifted me.

In the silence, everything was focused on the positions. The things I know the teachers say, daily, reverberated in my head.  Somehow, that made me put it all into action.  In the silence, I wanted to settle into the pose.  Hold it just a little longer and find that extra space.  I’m not sure I can accurately describe the difference.  I just know I want more.

When there is no music, you feel the room.  The people in the room become one, a flowing together.  I bet it was a beautiful thing.  Moving together, breathing together for an hour, in the silence in a hot room.  It was intimate, we shared something in there.  And I know more than just myself came out viewing our practice differently.

I hope there is another class.  I hope this becomes a thing.  And mostly I hope that the feeling, the love and peace we felt this evening in that place, breathing and moving together, happens again and again.  Transformation, together.

silence-quotes-hd-wallpaper-23

Yoga Emotion

Sometimes you just have one of those classes.  Tonight was that night.  I was feeling good, ready to go.  Before class, something hit me.  During this teacher training, I will miss my family horribly.  I’ve always been very close to my immediate family.  Famous for crying nearly every night at camp as a child because I missed my parents that much. My daughter and I are pretty much as close as you can be without being weird.  I hate being apart from family, many things go into that, we will leave that until another day. #mom

Then a little something happened before class that got me a bit emotional.  No big deal, just a nerve that was touched that has been touched a thousand times before.

Then, I fell.  That left leg toe stand I was determined to get into this month.  I was so close, and then I went down.  I’ve seen people fall, I’ve fell, usually, no big deal.  Right away, I was right back to working on it.  The right thing to do, the strong thing.  Stand, fold, try again.  And I got there.  No big deal, that should be the triumph.

But as the last move before a long laying in the dark on your back – all that emotion over took me and the tears welled up.  It isn’t the first time I’ve cried during class and I’m sure not the last.  But what struck me is that release.  Yoga is so much more than stretching or exercise.  Which it is both.  It is a emotional journey.  It’s forgiveness because your body can only be pushed that far.  It can only stretch so far.  We try to get to that “edge” *credit to Cassie – but that’s the farthest we can go.  We appreciate how far we have come, we have grace that we have the ability to do what we can.

Deep down I feel like my body has betrayed me.  From loosing that live forever feeling when I learned I was diagnosed BRCA+, or the emotional and physical toll the surgical decisions have taken.  Yoga has given me a power over my body and my mind that nothing else has been able to give me.   But in that moment, I feel betrayed.  And I cry.  Cry for what I have lost, cried for the forgiveness my body desperately needs.

In the next few poses, I was overcome with sadness.  My heart wasn’t in it and I wanted to just get through to the end.  I was going through the motions and no longer wanted to be there.  I just wanted to run.  And then, a friend.  A tribe member.  She gave me her energy and lifted my hand with hers.  I found the energy.  It flowed from her to me and I was renewed.

As my practice grows, I grow.  Learning, changing, humbly forgiving myself as I go.

silence-the-mind

30 Day Challenge – Amy’s Advice Day 9

It is day 9 of the 30 day challenge tomorrow.  I know it’s getting hard.  This is only my second, my first was in February.  I couldn’t believe how much my yoga was affected by following through.  So here are my tips now that we are nearing the 1/3 mark.

dulyposted_too-early-to-quit_quote

You might be a couple classes behind at this mark – DON’T give up!  Keep going.  You CAN do this.  Steps to keep going:

  1. Commit to one class a day.
  2. Go onto Mind Body app and sign up for the next few days.  Plan ahead and go back to #1
  3. Can’t get in every day?  That’s okay, split it up, cut it down.  How many doubles do you have to do per week to stay even?
  4. More than a couple classes behind?  That’s okay, keep going.  Go back to #1, don’t panic and just keep going.

Staying even – KEEP going!

  1. Commit to one class a day.
  2. Hydrate – make sure you are drinking enough water
  3. Fuel – eat well, eat healthy, fuel your body
  4. Plan – you don’t need to try to do a double back to back or three classes in a day, just stay close, do what you can and try to stay even.  Plan those classes out and mind body and set the time aside.  Return to #1.

Way ahead – KICK into high gear!

  1. Push yourself past 30.  What can you do?  More of a mix?  More doubles?  40 in 30?  Why stop at 30 in 30?  If you are kicking butt, kick harder!
  2. Hydrate – and then hydrate some more.  Dehydration can come on quick and stop your challenge in your tracks.
  3. Fuel – eat well, visit The Hunter’s Wife between a double.  Take advantage of those Anti-Flam Shots every 5 classes.
  4. Plan – schedule those classes and motivate your friends to keep up the energy.  Tag them, meet for classes.

Let’s go tribe, we got this!