Downward Dog

cat downward dog

I’ve been practicing “modified” yoga four years now. One day in the middle of my radiation treatments, I bent down to pick something off the floor and my lower back muscles felt like they were going to tear off the bone. I stopped midway and couldn’t touch the floor, even with my knees bent! Most of my adult life, I went to the gym on a regular basis and was in pretty good shape, that is–until cancer. I would spent weeks lying in bed, getting up only to use the toilet and shower. My body was too sick and weak to do much else, but when I discovered I couldn’t even bend over, that was when I changed my behavior. No matter how sick and tired I felt, I would not allow my body to shrivel up.

I found YouTube yoga classes and followed along as best I could. There were several geared to seniors which were about all I could handle when I started. They were done sitting in a chair. Then I moved up to regular beginner videos. I still those. I doubt very much if I will ever do the fancier poses I see on the cover of Yoga Magazine and I’m ok with that. At least once a week I do restorative yoga. It helps me relax and is my favorite yoga practice. Halfway through the sequence, I feel my body tension let go.

Before cancer I dabbled in yoga and two of my favorites were child’s pose and sun salutation. It took me a year to get back into a full child’s pose. My lower back was that tight! The radiation shrank the tumors along with the surrounding tissue, including muscle. My doctors told me only the tumors would be affected but they were wrong. The skin on my lower body, front and back turned grey and took nearly a year to clear up. I’m glad I couldn’t see what the inside of my body looked like!

My body still has issues, mainly balance (due to the chemotherapy attacking my nervous system), so the standing poses are modified. I usually use a chair for balance. I enjoy downward dog pose but couldn’t go all the way to the floor, until I watched a yoga instructor show her students another way to do it. She started on her and hands and knees and pushed herself up. I got excited and thought I can do that! And I did! I can’t stay in that position as long as I do using a chair because my arms are weaker than I thought, but I will keep trying. It took a year to perfect child’s pose and I won’t give up on downward dog. Hopefully, I will rebuild muscle in my arms too.

If you want to do something, no matter what it is, keep trying. Spend time doing it everyday and don’t worry about your progress. The point is to keep doing it. If you’re wanting to try yoga, focus on yourself and not what the other person is doing. Someone told me a long time ago, that yoga is not about doing the perfect pose, it’s a life style.

Practicing yoga to the best of my ability is something I will do the rest of my life. I learned if I miss a few days, my muscles tighten up again and I don’t want that. Each day I set aside at least ten minutes for yoga, along with 20 to meditate. It’s my time and I’ve learned if I don’t make time for myself, I will pay for it down the road. My health is my responsibility and priority.

Be well and make time for you!