The reality is that we all come to our yoga practice with a pre-existing condition. We all have a human body. A body with a multitude of capabilities and strengths and vulnerabilities. We have the capacity for great pleasure, strength and ease. We suffer pain, disease, illness, grief, emotional distress, exhaustion and tragedy. Today your are fine, tomorrow you have carpal tunnel or a diagnosis of cancer. Today you are a hot little number in a fine pair of jeans and tomorrow you are nauseated and bloated with pregnancy. We change, we grow and we gain and we lose. We are sick and we get better. We are sad and things get worse. We are distraught today and receive fabulous news that raises our spirits tomorrow. Our condition is unpredictable and change is the only thing we can count on. There isn’t ONE yoga student or instructor who is not subject to the pre-existing condition of the human body. The body is our greatest tool for practice BECAUSE of it’s nature!
It is important that you inform your yoga instructor of any recent surgeries or illnesses or chronic conditions that may effect your practice. This will help the instructor provide appropriate modifications if necessary. You should always feel free to ask for modifications at any time. It’s always a good idea to talk with your doctors and/or surgeon to get permission to practice yoga before you start.
While yoga instructors can help you modify your practice, they are NOT doctors and may or may not be familiar with your diagnosis or type of surgery or injury. Do not assume that your yoga instructor knows medical terms or more than the most basic anatomy. Some instructors do have an interest in anatomy and medicine. Some have just a very basic training from the few hours required for certification. It is your responsibility to practice safely and avoid any exercises or types of movements that are contraindicated for your particular condition. If you have any question as to whether you should do a certain pose or not, always err on the side of caution.
It is also important to relieve yourself of identification with illness and disease. The body is constantly changing and there is no benefit in maintaining an illness identity. This is just as true with a chronic condition like arthritis as it is with survivors of cancer or car accidents. First, find out how to practice safely. Then, let go of the label and give yourself the gift of the present moment. We can use our practice to become intimate with the sensations in our body and to open our bodies and minds to feeling our best in this moment. Over time, this type of awareness and practice can create a deep healing for our body and mind. It is not in place of or instead of receiving appropriate medical care. Rather, the practice provides a knowing of the body as a sea of change. With this capacity to change, we find hope.