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Cancer, Yoga and Community

I’ve never had cancer so I don’t know what it feels like to have a doctor call you to say you have cancer, to give you a prognosis or timeline, or how it feels to share that news with your loved ones. I don’t know what it feels like to have a part of your body feel so foreign and harmful. I don’t know how what its like to feel as if you no longer have full control over your body and health.

But, I do know from family and friends who have been diagnosed with cancer that a supportive community of practitioners, friends and family members can help them through the darkest times. I was going to write about how yoga can support people with cancer. That restorative yoga particularly can help the body rest, assist the immune system in rebuilding, and provide an opportunity for the mind to let go of worry.

Instead, I find myself reflecting on a restorative yoga class I attended yesterday. A radiant woman came to class for the first time and her sister quietly shared with me that she was recently diagnosed with breast cancer. I shared how glad I was that she was introducing her to yoga as a practice that can hopefully provide her with some calm amidst her current life’s storm.

I continued to do my work at the front desk until it was almost time for the class to start. As I walked into the studio what I witnessed was beautiful and heartwarming. I saw a community of people surrounding the woman and sharing stories of support, empowerment and love. She had shared with the instructor what she was going through unbeknownst to her that the yoga teacher she was talking to was a cancer survivor and had found yoga as a tool to help heal her body, mind, and spirit.

Another student overheard them talking and asked if she could kindly share her story of overcoming cancer as well. She shared how she had begun practicing restorative yoga at home but was so happy she had found a place she could come to now to practice amongst others so that she had a community of support.

What I witnessed was a group of warriors who were sharing their stories to lift another up, to say that they’ve been there and they can empathize with what she is going through. They didn’t share that yoga was the cure or a way to fix what was wrong with her. Instead they simply held the space to allow her to have her experience, knowing she isn’t alone, knowing she is loved, and supported.

I can’t pretend to know what she is going through or what it feels like to walk a day in her shoes. But I do know how important my community of friends, family, colleagues, neighbors, and others have been to me over the years. I know what it feels like to walk into a room and know that you are not alone; that you are amongst a group of warriors who choose to lift one another up when they can and be lifted themselves when they can’t.

Is yoga the cure for cancer? I would love to say it is and do believe in it’s healing powers. I’ve witnessed people find relief from chronic illness, pain, and both physical and emotional suffering with yoga. But, more than anything, I believe in the power of people. I believe that a community of supportive and loving souls might just be what anyone suffering needs most.

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