Yoga when FACING LIFE’S CHALLENGES
A good example of everything I talked about above is the story of a teacher of the Kaiut Yoga method who had cancer of the intestine, and, thanks to the practice, she moved through the recovery process well and is working to dissolve the traumas caused by the surgery in her body.
Her first contact with yoga was in January 2016, during a wellness event in Campos do Jordão. The practice was one of the activities on the program and she was invited to attend one of the classes with a teacher with over 17 years of experience. According to her, at the end, despite the degree of difficulty, the pain and the fatigue, she felt a sensation different from anything she had ever experienced.
Upon returning to São Paulo, she decided to continue the practice with the same teacher. Her main interest was to experience the mental well-being he had felt that first class. This was particularly relevant, as her main issue was the stress and anxiety she experienced from working 10-12 hours a day in a high-pressure job in one of the largest banks in the country, in the area of prevention and money laundering.
In addition to the anxiety, her body resented the heavy backpacks she had carried since college which left her with strong back pain. With the practice, twice a week, this pain disappeared, and her anxiety diminished. As a result of the positive benefits of practice, she became curious to understand how the practice worked. So she started reading about meditation and other related topics until she decided to specialize in a training course. I was one of the teachers invited to train the students, and we got to know each other.
At the end of the first class, she felt new sensations and had a new experience of herself—she could actually feel her own body. After that, we started talking longer and I explained how the Kaiut Yoga method works. She was delighted to learn that anyone, regardless of physical condition, could take a class in this method.
This new awareness made her want to share what she was experiencing with others. Since then, she continued investing in training until she came to me and said she would like to become a teacher. I explained that the trainings took place in Curitiba, and further south in Gramado. The distance made it impossible for her to go but in 2018, I ran training in São Paulo and finally she could attend.
She started teaching yoga in 2017, still mixing concepts from other methods, but in 2018 aligned all her teaching with the Kaiut Method. At the same time, she continued practicing and improving perception of her own body, getting to know, through the postures, places she didn’t even know existed.
In 2020 the COVID-19 pandemic came, and she started to dedicate herself more to classes and practicing every day, something she did not do before. It was then that she noticed a drastic change in her body, from a drop in fat indexes to structural ones, besides feeling more available and more willing.
Months later, in October, she noticed something wrong with her body and went to her gynecologist, who recommended a colonoscopy. The exam identified two polyps in her intestine, one of them being cancerous. From then on, she went through a routine of many exams until she realized that she needed to have surgery to remove the polyp.
The surgery was cancelled three times due to the increasing number of COVID-19 cases, until it was scheduled for July 24, 2021. The solid contact she had developed with her own body made her aware that she needed to be well both physically and emotionally to go through this process. After all, the doctor was clear and said that the cure would depend on how the body reacted and the recovery process. If everything went well, she would be cured.
Even though she was aware that it was a delicate process, with risk of hospital infections and because it was a bowel procedure, she knew she could not despair. Prior to the surgery she tried to remain optimistic. Of course, she had highs and lows, but overall she remained confident of healing. She took time for self-care of her body and mind, looked at the future in a positive light, doing what she could to not slide into depression.
Committed, she continued to take online classes and often says that this is what sustained her in the moments of anguish and despair when doubts fill our mind. These moments are absolutely normal when facing and recovering for surgery, even with full understanding and openness to the highs and lows of the process and yoga as a stabilizing resource, there were still times she was apprehensive about the future. At these times, she would devote herself even more to the practice to take care of her body to give herself the best chance of going through and recovering well from surgery. Her commitment to nurturing herself and tapping into her internal universe of self-care was even there in the hours before the surgery—she would enter yoga postures on her hospital bed to get through the long-waiting time.
The surgery was a success, despite the cut in her abdomen, the 13 centimeters of bowel removed, and the pain that immobilized her. During the medical team’s visit, she learned that it took a lot of force to pass the equipment through the pelvic region and this was the reason for the pain. Soon, she understood that her body was traumatized and heavily disrupted and that she would need to restore the harmony she had created with the practice.
She had to stay at home about 20 days without making any effort because of the cuts, stitches, and pain caused by the trauma of the many bowel movements during the surgery. Already in the first days she felt powerless and asked me if she could do some postures.
After the medical release, which took about 26 days after the procedure, I recommended putting her legs up in a gentle position. Resuming yoga, even in small doses, made her feel better with a sense of internal comfort.
For her, the post-surgery period was more challenging than the pre-surgery period, as at this stage there she was limited in what she could do with her body which there was not before. Her body was stiff and she still had fear of the disease coming back.
In January 2022 she returned to the full onehour practice, and in July 2022 she resumed face-to-face classes. Already in the first month she noticed the difference in her body that extended from mobility to the area in her belly that was stiff and swollen.
I have no doubt that the constant practice, the experience of the method, and the understanding she had about how everything worked helped her not to experience extensive losses. I notice that today her body is more prepared and she feels more secure than she did six months ago.
Yoga practice can be considered a systemic health stimulus. Consider it as a tool that prepares your body and mind for the challenges that life throws at us. It is such a powerful resource that some researchers have already identified the potential in treating disease and recovering from surgical processes.
Often the diagnosis of surgery is not well-received by individuals, but the yogi is better prepared to face the whole process. First, because he is aware of the potential of his own body, its ability to recover, and the healing power of the practice. He also maintains a positive outlook on life, and we know that a person with a weakened mental state puts the metabolic functions of the body at risk.
The pre-operative phase is crucial for building this more available and resilient body. I have observed great results working with students pre-surgery. If there are no medical restrictions, and I have a solid bond with the student and they have adequate comprehension of the Method, I try to intensify the practice before surgery. This includes working intensely in the region that will be affected by the surgery. Of course, this is done in a gentle, technical, and responsible way.
Post-operatively, we need to consider the many layers of trauma created by the surgery, and the yoga teacher needs to work with the student through all of them–gentleness, use of appropriate techniques, and taking responsibility remain vital. I usually start the work after medical release, this will help the student to feel more comfortable and secure, so the brain will help us to resume the movements.
The evolution will depend on the student’s dedication and level of experience. Those who have practiced yoga for longer have more body awareness because their prefrontal cortex is more developed and can easily identify what has changed. In any case, the results will be effective for everyone.
We know that every trauma generates fear, and we prefer to try to forget what happened and return to normal life. However, this will no longer be possible. After a surgery, your body will not be the same, it will not have the same functionality as before. Denying reality will not help you.
Make yoga a resource to dissolve all the layers of trauma of this process—from the gross physical ones to the more subtle energetic ones. Know that in the Method, the positions are designed to stimulate numerous body regions and rescue your body’s health potential. We can view surgery as the beginning of a path of growth and evolution if we choose. Surgery wounds us by necessity, but with yoga as a complement, it can be an experience that leads us to unleash more of our potential.