“Be grateful for whoever comes, because each has been sent as a guide from beyond.”
“You look anxious,” he said. It was obvious he was making an observation, not a judgement. Startled by his bluntness, I blurted out “I’m in pain,” rather than explaining how I had ended up at “Breathe Into Motion Yoga Studios.”
I’d been using high CBD oil for a month, and the results were nothing less than dramatic. I still hurt. A lot. But the liquid began to quiet my system ever so gently. My body greedily slurped up the dark, dank medicine. It was the flavour of motor oil, I guessed, but no matter. I had the first tool in my hands that allowed me to dull the agony for a few hours at a time. My worries about using a product from the dispensary dissipated with the pain symptoms. An order from the new LP with legal CBD oil was in the works. While misery was still a daily reality, I was able to lessen it enough to function on my feet for short periods of time. And I hadn’t thrown up in weeks.
As a result, I was off the couch, looking for a way to build back some muscle mass and resilience into my broken body. Lying prone for almost a year had done my frame no good whatsoever. In addition to the CIPN symptoms, I was inflexible and weak. I figured I had a year before the insurance company would bounce me back to work, and I intended to make good use of that time.
By pure chance, I found a nearby yoga studio that specialized in injury recovery. As I listened to the pitch over the phone, I was skeptical that anything could be done for me. I showed up anyway, thinking there was nothing to lose. But I was unprepared for the approach of this particular studio – and this particular yogi – to teaching yoga.
Before joining my first class, I met with Mike Chapman, the owner of the studio and the founder of the Breathe into Motion school of yoga. There were a few things he wanted to go over:
First, there was the health form, which was far more thorough than the waivers I’d been asked to sign at the previous yoga studio I’d attended in my prior life. Mike reviewed it with me very carefully before my first class, but having done this only a million times with various health care types throughout the cancer journey, I coasted on autopilot in my responses. Next, there was the concept of progressing through step-by-step lessons, designed to teach proper biomechanics and prevent injury. I thought all yoga used the follow-the-leader format. Not structured lessons. Then I listened as the yogi explained his job would be to develop an “exercise prescription” tailor made to my needs. Whatever that was.
Finally, he smiled and reassured me that eventually, my body would begin to mend, the pain would subside and that he would enable me to progress to more complex levels of yoga practice – first level one, then onward to level two, and hopefully I might someday be able to practice power yoga in levels three and four.
Good luck with that, I thought, even as I nodded my head in agreement.
I could hear my oncologist’s voice: Permanent. Incurable. Difficult to manage. But I smiled back at him, thinking “At some point you’ll learn that you can’t really help me.” While he figured that out, I was going to be anonymous, set up in the back of the room, and push hard against both the pain and my own hopelessness.
I couldn’t have been more wrong, of course; he was seeing my body and its pain very clearly from that first moment we met. As for the plan to do my own thing in the back of the room? I had chosen exactly the wrong yoga studio to avoid attention and quietly suffer through each class.
As they say, I did not know what I did not know. But I was about to find out.