I once received a healing massage from a woman who was in chemotherapy treatment for her late stage breast cancer.
Well, I tried to receive it. It was tough. It wasn’t the kind of healing or massage I had planned for. No fault of hers—her hands were graceful and she was quite skilled, I am sure. I just couldn’t accept her gift. She was bald. She was bony. She was dying. In my mind, she needed her own healing energy much more than I did.
That was at a time in my life when I was pretty sick myself, though. I was emotionally strained and psychologically drained. Kind of a mess. Addicted to things. In denial. Trying not to lose my sanity. But all of that was my own doing.
I certainly didn’t feel permitted to take anything from someone who was ill from a random disease. I was at a women’s weekend personal development retreat, and I became a little fixated on the experience. I felt like everyone needed to know how I scheduled this massage as a treat for myself, but I didn’t expect someone so amazing to provide it for me. How I much appreciation and admiration I had. I told everyone how wonderful it was. But it wasn’t so wonderful because of how I acted.
After I paid her (and of course, I over-tipped her), I felt completely unworthy. I couldn’t stop trying to convince myself that I was awesome for thinking about her and her needs. But I wasn’t so awesome. I was sorely unaware.
She needed to do her work, which meant give me a great massage, as she was trained (and paid) to do. I turned the exchange into a mini pity party decorated with co-dependence.
She said something, though, during my massage, in an attempt to placate me. It has stuck with me as I’ve gained awareness and for that I’m forever grateful. In fact, it has grown to be one of my personal mantras over the many years I have trained people physically, as well as in my own yoga practice. She said, “This practice is a prayer for your body and mine.”
A few years after that retreat, I found health, inside and out. I began to teach Pilates, take dance classes and dabble in yoga again like when I was much younger. Except this time, I was 40, presented with new challenges like a tricky low back, crooked hips and a lot of knee pain.
Since that time, whenever I enter a class, whether as student or teacher, I remember what the bald, bony, beautiful chemotherapy patient told me about this practice.
Yoga is a Prayer for My Body
I love that no one knows exactly how I feel inside my body, except for me. I am my best caretaker.
This body is my temple. I dwell here in it, seeking my intention, asking for what I should find and allowing myself to receive what is in harmony with its needs.
I treat myself here with hope and love. I am thankful. Yoga is a prayer of gratitude and compassion.
I don’t need to think about what to feel. My body is here, and I’m with it.
Yoga is Rest for My Mind
I love that I am not burdened by my judgments of myself compared to the others around me.
I have no need to know all their pains. If they have cancer, my brain need not noodle on their health. They are their own best caretakers.
My own struggles or worries are not a burden to others. I don’t need to tell the story of my arthritis acting up or how lightly I slept. I don’t have to state my peace, or check in with my choices.
No reason is needed for the clothes that I wear or the car that I drive.
I don’t need to find an excuse for what I am doing. My mind is allowed to be at rest.
Yoga is Permission for My Soul
I love that we are all here together, honoring this shared, but personal, experience. We have trust.
My spirit moves as it wants, to enliven my body and relieve my mind. My intention can be anything. I am permitted the time I need to make a connection with my practice and my peace.
My desires and abilities can shine out from me, bring light to my mat, through the floor, to the stars.
I don’t need to wonder if I might have done more, or less. My soul is allowed its experience, without regret.
Author: Faith Watson
Editor: Evan Yerburgh