Yoga and Breast Cancer – Two

It’s been said that many women have that ingrained instinctive trait of being excellent at taking care of others. If they are not good at it, by the time they head into motherhood, many tend to develop and near perfect this skill at taking care of others – most often, even before learning how to take care of themselves best in accordance to changing conditions. Moms are super giving, caring for their babies and spouses and additionally they take on the load – the job, career, aging parents, friends in need and so on. In many ways, many moms thrive from this mission to care for others. While they excel at the art of caring for others, many do poorly at taking care of themselves. It’s not a blame game but rather from research that those women who tend to be a perfectionist, people-pleasing do-gooder, self-sacrificing … are at risk and if they do not know how to better inoculate themselves from stress, can fall victim to illnesses unimaginable.

Short-term stress that comes in spurts and bursts can actually be good for us – it gets us to challenge ourselves and grow.
But long term, chronic stress? That’s another story – it’s insidious and eats away at one’s very core so this is where Yoga can serve our needs best, while bringing about wholesome physical improvements. Improvements such as muscle strengths, flexibility and as by-products, better posture, better respiratory health and mental fitness.

When one is in the guilt mode – either of survivorship or guilt over past lifestyles one suspects of bringing on the illness to find lodging in the vulnerable (rather say, just, fate), or how about anger – why me? why now? – anger borne really out of fear … all those natural emotions are inevitable but no good will come. Rather, transform the negative emotions to that of gratitude and compassion towards oneself … that intention to be kind will boomerang to all who is near you, back to you.

So when a woman two seats away from me was sobbing away, I felt compelled to rush over and console her but then … I saw that I needed to just let her. Give her the space to cry it out. With no judgement. But with total empathy.

There were few other reactions to this woman and … let me share them:

1. One nurse just brought a box of Kleenex and walked away.
2. Another nurse, asked her gently, “would you like a warmed towel?”

And the last one was the most surprising and jarring … This nurse who had been walking briskly by few times, this time abruptly stops in front of her and as though to admonish a preschooler with a flinging index finger in front of her nose demands an answer to a rhetorical question – “why are you crying?”

“WHY ARE YOU CRYING?” she hissed – then proceeded to preach, “you don’t know – there’s nothing to cry about – you can do something about it. why are you crying?”

I know this nurse meant it as a pep talk perhaps – but her statements were not consoling. The woman stopped sobbing. Yeah, it worked… because she then begin to wail an octave higher – the soft sobs turned into a louder wailing and sobbing. Reflective of how effective that “pep talk” was.

I could not help but appreciate the two nurses who quietly consoled and roll my eyes (internally) with the third nurse. This nurse probably needs a bit of a training in giving comfort. I felt more sadness towards that woman who couldn’t stop sobbing – Sometimes people may mean well but trigger counterproductive results – I know the third nurse meant well as well but good intentions can go awry. We know this. It’s really because while she meant well, it was not ultimately not about the woman – it was about how unpleasant it may be to others to hear sobbing at a hospital exam room – and how that affected her state of mind. If one truly cared about that woman, she would have probably just held a safe space for her so she may gather herself and dust off and walked out in peace.

In yoga too, we have to really examine – Am I being Kind and Compassionate to myself? How is this going to make me stronger or how is this going to make me flexible ? How is this going to make the pain go away? Is this pain good for me? What are my goals? Do I want to just lose 10 lbs and live happily ever after or … what is going to really help?

Isn’t the practice supposed to bring me closer to … bliss?

That is my aim in my own practice.