It’s hard not to feel betrayed by your body when you get sick.
I’m not talking about getting a cold or the flu, severe allergies, chicken pox, measles or mumps, although these conditions pose challenges of their own.
It’s when you find yourself facing a life-changing illness—cancer, say, or renal failure, or a host of neuro-muscular disorders—that you might think of life’s changes as unfair.
And if you practice yoga, you may feel betrayed by the changes in your body, as well as by the very practice that you expected to keep you healthy.
This sense of betrayal is rooted in our unrealistic expectations of what we feel should (or shouldn’t) happen in life:
If I take care of myself …
If I eat the right food …
If I practice yoga …
If I do these things, then I will stay healthy.
But yoga isn’t a shield that can protect you from life, and your practice of yoga isn’t meant to keep you or your body from changing.
Rather, it’s meant to help you learn to accept the changes that life brings you—even cancer, even renal failure—as a natural part of life.
Yoga teaches us that our bodies change in each moment, each pose, whether we want them to or not, and if we learn how to accept these changes, we can live each day of our lives with openness and equanimity in the face of change.
Yoga helps us find our balance, even within the storms of illness, each asana a counterbalance to the feelings of disappointment, anger, and frustration that we may feel, reminding us that life, despite illness, is still life, and that in each moment we can find joy and love and laughter.
Life still offers possibilities, even if you are no longer the same person you were a moment ago.
None of us are the same people we were a moment ago. In the minutes that it has taken to reach this sentence, we have all changed.
How you perceive this change—whether you are ill or healthy—will determine how you live in each moment.
Take a moment before getting out of bed to listen to your body. Is your neck stiff? Do your knees or calves ache? Are your eyes dry, your lips parched? Do you accept these feelings as a natural part of life’s aging process or do you feel angry and frustrated by these changes?
After you’ve had a chance to move about a bit, take a moment to listen to your body again. Ask yourself how you feel now. Are you tired or energized? Still stiff and aching, or alert and pain-free? What is your body telling you?
Before turning on the radio or reading the morning newspaper, set aside ten minutes to write in your journal. Write about why you accept change as part of life or why you resist it.