Preparing the Body for Surgery: A New Kind of Yoga

This entry was posted on Jan 14, 2014 by Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg.
Preparing the Body for Surgery: A New Kind of Yoga

“Breathe in one nostril for a count of four, and out the other for a count of eight,” Ursula told me today, sharing the kind of thing you might hear in a yoga class. Only I wasn’t in a yoga class, and Ursula isn’t a yoga teacher, but an energy healer. Lying on a massage table, breathing as she told me, I was learning another kind of yoga: a way of yoking with my body and soul that doesn’t involve Downward Facing Dog or Trikonasana, but there’s certainly enough Savasana to make up for the lack of more strenuous poses.

I was working with yoga to prepare for surgery in general, and to be specific, something just as complicated to say as Dwi Pada Viparita Dandasana, a kind of laproscopic surgery to repair a hiatal hernia. Yet the kind of surgery isn’t as important here as what I’ve learned from yoga, and from previous surgeries as the need to embrace moments of bright physical challenge with preparation, engagement and gratitude. Having had numerous major surgeries related to breast cancer, I come to this new surgery knowing well the importance of treating this new intensive of living in a body with respect and care.

So I’m breathing. I’m telling my body what will happen. I’m visualizing light flowing through each chakra. I’m listening carefully to what my body truly has to say to me: where and how I feel fear, excitement, peace, apprehension, resolve and joy.

“How soon will I be able to do yoga again?” I asked my surgeon when we were setting a date.

He thought for a moment, then said I could do yoga if it didn’t involve using my diaphragm, at least not for two or more weeks. Considering how many yoga poses involve stretching parts of my body that will need to find a softer path toward healing, I’m going to be doing a different kind of yoga than usual after this surgery, maybe with a lot of Supta Baddha Konasana.

Before the surgery, I can push myself in usual and exciting ways with my whole body to continue to build up strength and resilience.

In between and throughout all, it’s back to the breath, and through the breath, setting and following intentions and prayers toward healing.

About Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg
Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg is the Poet Laureate of Kansas, and the author of 14 books, including a forthcoming novel, The Divorce Girl; The Sky Begins At Your Feet: A Memoir on Cancer, Community & Coming Home to the Body (Ice Cube Books); and four collections of poetry. Founder of Transformative Language Arts – a master's program in social and personal transformation through the written, spoken and sung word at Goddard College (Goddard College); where she teaches, Mirriam-Goldberg also leads writing workshops widely. With singer Kelley Hunt, she co-writes songs, offers collaborative performances, and leads writing and singing Brave Voice retreats (; and she blogs regularly at her website (

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