I’ve done yoga on and off since I was a child. I’m the youngest of 7 and my next-up sister is 6 years older than me. That meant that when she learned gymnastics at school she’d come home and teach me, when she did drama after school I went along to her rehearsals (our parents were at work, I had to go somewhere), and when she – a teenager in the 70s – learned some yoga, I did too. I’ve come back to it throughout my life. At high school I had a yoga book I tried to follow from line drawings and black and white photos, my first proper theatre job when I left university was a year-long contract with a company that insisted we did 30-60 mins of yoga every morning (unfortunately there was no qualified teacher in attendance so some pretty dodgy processes were part of that too). I’ve come back to it with both cancers, and especially when I had breast cancer for the second time in 2014*.

It’s now a daily practice thanks to Adriene Mischler’s brilliant Yoga With Adriene site which I subscribe to – she also offers loads for free and I hugely recommend her work as a way to get back into yoga after illness/sickness – it was great for me post-op, during chemo and after radiotherapy. (nb, I’d suggest you probably need to know at least a bit of what you’re doing, and/or try classes first if you’re brand new) and I go to yoga classes 2-3 times a week.

Here’s the joy … I’ve had a bit of a down week. No reason, just the usual(!) nameless, formless dread/anxiety that hits every now and then, and much as I might try to pin it on my chronic pain or my fear of cancer recurrence or worries about work or life or whatever (all of which are very valid), it is also true that – for me – a certain degree of anxiety/fear resides at base, anyway, whatever else is going on. Some days, some weeks, some months, that feeling is more prevalent than others. It’s been stronger this week.

AND I had a yoga breakthrough today. I’m hyper-mobile (which is nowhere near as useful as it sounds) and even so, there are still many poses that are tricky, some due to post-surgery problems in my shoulders (mastectomy can result in shoulder problems) and my general osteoarthritis. Today I managed a pose I probably haven’t been able to do since I was about 15. I’m 55. The rush of joy at attaining the pose – and then doing it again on the other side! – was huge. Joy with sobbing snotty tears. That kind of joy. Joy of being in my body and with my body. Here. In me. This can be tricky for any of us and I know other friends who live with chronic pain or fear of recurrence find it hard sometimes too, so being in me, this broken, scarred, damaged, aging body and being here in joy … such bliss. Fleeting, rare, bliss.

Another yoga blog from May 2018.

*yes, I am nearly 5 years cancer-free (as far as we know), but I’m also nearly 19 years since the first cancer, so I now know for sure how arbitrary and kind of irrelevant that five year mark is. Saving that for another blog …