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January 7, 2012 / martinezyoga

Previously On Martinez Yoga…

“It works! It really works!” That’s what one of my students said after practice this week. And coming from her, it meant a lot to me. She is a member of Gilda’s Club NYC, and she’s been taking my Gentle Yoga class for the past three years. Gilda’s Club is an organization that offers social and emotional services to those who are directly or indirectly effected by cancer. The organization was founded by Gilda Radner, actor and comedian, and is one of the original Not Ready for Prime-Time Players of Saturday Night Live. Gilda bravely fought her ovarian cancer, and passed in 1989. I consider it an honor and a privilege to teach there.

Over the years I’ve made connections with the members, and have built a practice that honors their life state condition, whatever that may be on any given day. I just want to bring a bit of comfort and ease as they live with cancer. I know what it can be like, to have surgeries and chemotherapy. I had testicular cancer almost seven years ago. I was thirty-five at the time, and I was healthy, so I thought. I was living in San Francisco, riding my bike up and down the hills, swimming, jogging, playing tennis, and practiced Yoga. I started experiencing back pain, but I didn’t think it was cancer until I discovered a lump through my belly. It turned out that I had a tumor in-between my kidney and bladder, and one on my left testicle. The testicle came off, and I went through six months of chemotherapy and surgeries. Not good times, but the treatment worked. No cancer. Just one testicle and a couple of scars. I’m fine now. Just a bit different. That’s enough about me. Back to Gilda’s Club.

That day when we had practice I did notice my friend moving a bit slower, and she seemed to be quite stiff. I don’t prod the members with health questions more than, “How are you feeling today?” If they want to share, then I listen. If they don’t share for whatever reason, that’s alright too. I just smile and nod. It’s then perhaps they need to let go of the whole ordeal for a bit, and Yoga is a great way of centering on what you are thinking, feeling, and doing at the present moment, not fixed on what occurred before or what will occur after practice. I got a feeling that’s what she needed this past week, to have practice, be with others, and put that cancer aside for bit. There was very little she needed to tell me. I could see it in her eyes. To put the cancer aside doesn’t mean denial, it just means that while you have practice you’re not the person with cancer. You’re the person who is with their Yoga. Yoga in asana, posture. Yoga in vinyasa, movement. Yoga in pranayama, breath. Intimate with your Yoga, meeting your individual need(s). I encourage all my students to find the easiest possible way to receive the greatest benefit.

After practice was over, she was lighter on her feet and smiling. She found comfort and ease, and strength and softness. Even if it’s for split second and at any amount, her practice released her from discomfort and pain, be that physical or emotional. Sometimes that split second is all that you need.

She’s right. Yoga does work. Yes, it’s work, but it’s good work.

Photos by Anna Rose

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