I lay on my yoga mat, legs bent and feet in the air, pressing my hands into my knees to create resistance. First my abs, then my arms, then my whole body began to tremble with exertion. My mind, usually calm and focused during my yoga practice, began to race and my eyes filled with tears. How could I possibly be this broken? How could such slight resistance, such an easy pose, be this hard? How could this restorative class, Yoga for Cancer Survivorship, be this hard when my bread and butter used to be the most advanced class at the local hot yoga studio? I forced myself to return to my breath, determined not to stop until the instructor moved us on. After an eternity, the instructor told us to release and make our way to a seated position. I remained on my back for another moment, feeling like a flipped turtle, helpless and vulnerable. Then, still fighting back tears, I laboriously sat up, taking all my strength to do something that was once effortless.
I was suddenly furious. This cancer, this greedy, fucking insatiable cancer! It takes and it takes, indiscriminately consuming every aspect of my life–what I can do, who I can see, what and when I can eat. There is not a single corner of my life that has not been affected by this disease and its therapies. And now it has come for my yoga practice. This. Makes. Me. Mad.
I left that first post-operative practice angry and exhausted, two emotions all too familiar to me since my diagnosis. I am often too exhausted to be any help around the house, and this makes me mad. I am often too exhausted to play with my kids, and this makes me mad. I am often too exhausted to be my best self at work or to join my family at the Shabbat table, and this makes me mad. Add guilt to all that anger and you’ve got one hell of a cocktail.
The next week, I decided to go back to my usual yoga studio with my usual instructor. As we moved through our first asanas, she said something she says often: “See what’s available to you today.” I have heard her say this countless times. “See what’s available; find what’s available to you today. Maybe you can go deeper today than you did yesterday, or maybe you need to be gentle with yourself. Find what’s available.” I hear her say this throughout every practice, but it’s never meant much to me. I could always go deeper, push harder, give just a little more. But that day, that second practice post-op, those words cut straight to my battered core. I felt myself relax just a bit and give in just a little to my new constraints. I found what was available.
My life has changed in so many ways since that day last March. I am limited in ways that make me feel mad and sad and guilty. But if I can find what’s available moment to moment, I can make it day by day.