On this International Yoga Day, I want to share why my yoga practice is not just for an hour a day or when I step on my mat, but a practice of gratitude every second of every day.
In Tuesday’s Morning Flow taught by Mary Billings, she gave us a mantra, “Gratitude for your strong body.” This mantra is one that I recite DAILY.
I’ve always been able to trust my body. I’ve never had aches and pains, never had headaches, never been seriously ill. When I wanted to do something, I just did it and my body complied.
Until Spring 2017. Suddenly, I began getting niggly little pains: my shoulder hurting every time I moved my right arm, my elbows hurting while pulling the garbage cans up the driveway, my toes aching when we went into a tippy-toe balance in yoga class, my hips throbbing while sleeping on my side, my ankle swelling so much that it was painful to walk. Nothing huge, just things that I chalked up to aging; and as quickly as the pains came, they subsided. In April, I was in so much pain I couldn’t do yoga. I didn’t know what was happening to me and I was scared. Fast forward to late May and I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis. I was shocked. I was scared. I was in disbelief. I couldn’t have Rheumatoid Arthritis. I was healthy; I did yoga; I ate organic; I lived a healthy lifestyle. The doctors had to be wrong.
But I couldn’t deny the fact that my body was no longer my body. I was teaching yoga while sitting in a chair because I couldn’t get up and down without my sons bodily lifting me. I shuffled while walking because everything hurt, and my legs refused to move. I barely ate because it hurt too much to bring a fork to my mouth, not to mention that my jaws ached so badly that I couldn’t open my mouth nor chew. My husband was bathing me, dressing me, putting my hair into a ponytail, doing all the chores around the house; I was a shell of myself. My body was no longer strong. My body was broken. And it almost broke me. There were so many nights of excruciating pain, curled up in a corner of the couch with the whispers of death circulating around me. The Jesi who loved life and called herself an optimist was gone; if I didn’t wake up in the morning, I would have been completely fine with it. I would miss my family. I would miss seeing my kids getting married. I would miss the birth of my grandkids. I would miss so many milestones I had been looking forward to. I would miss this beautiful life that my husband and I have created. But living with this pain was more than I could bear.
The strong, beautiful body that was always there for me was broken, and only now did I realize how much I had taken for granted. Only now did I appreciate how fortunate I had been. Only now did I give it the gratitude that it deserved. Now that it had all been taken from me.
In June 2017, I saw a Rheumatologist and started taking the horrible meds that I had been avoiding—a low dose chemotherapy drug. It gave me my life back. It gave me back the body that had been taken from me. After 6 weeks of taking the medication, I was able to dress myself, shower on my own, put my hair in a ponytail, eat food, walk without shuffling, take gentle yoga classes. I thanked my strong body for being there for me. Every morning, I wake up and am grateful for all that my body does for me. I will never take being strong and healthy for granted. EVER.
My mantra, every day, is “gratitude for my strong body.” And living my yoga every second of every day. Xx Jesi
PS are you curious about what it means to “live your yoga?” I definitely have thoughts on this. Let’s schedule a chai date and chat