In case you missed it, I recently had parathyroidectomy surgery. This was an important surgery to make sure my parathyroid continues to function properly and maintain the acceptable range of calcium in my blood and not leach it out of my bones. On the surface, I never really felt badly, I just had a pain in my side that led me to my PCP last fall which was when I had the routine blood test that turned up this issue. The news was a bit shocking to me to say the least. My idea of a healthy lifestyle had not made me immune from this particular health issue. Now that I’ve had a few months to live with the condition and actually do something about it, I have the benefit of hindsight and let me tell you, I am so very thankful for my yoga training.
Preparing for surgery can be very anxiety-provoking. In the weeks leading up to my surgery and especially the few days prior, I made sure to take time for myself, to move my body in yoga postures and breathe fully in order to oxygenate my blood and ensure a maximum infusion of prana, vital life force, before being cut into. I even gave myself a steady diet of fresh vegetable juices including carrots, apples, celery and ginger to make sure I was taking in prana through my food as well.
On the morning of surgery, I had to be at the hospital by 5am. Breathing practices, pranayama, sustained me in that moment. Each time I felt fear or anxiety creeping up, I would return to long, slow, smooth inhales and exhales through my nose in order to remain as calm as possible beforehand. After surgery, I slept a lot. When I finally felt ready to begin moving again, I looked forward to returning to a gentle yoga practice. This was an interesting experience, because the feeling of the poses and my practice was very different. Whereas before I may have begun with some sun salutations and then stronger standing poses or backbends (my favorites), now I had to really pay attention to my body. I still did not have much range of motion in my neck and did not want to push things. Being forced to slow down was truly a practice of embodiment. Instead of returning immediately to a strong practice, I would sit on my mat, breathe, and feel. What do I truly need today? What would serve my current body most effectively? There is much to be learned from slowing down and paying attention. We can all benefit from the lessons of yoga to carry us through the challenging times as much as through the good times. And I would argue, we’ve all been through and perhaps are still in extremely challenging times right now. Slow and steady on.