Practice with Intention

The invitation to offer up the benefits of your practice to someone else is not uncommon. When you are going through your own personal struggles, this invitation may feel like an unreasonable request. It is just an invitation. There is no judgment on whether or not you choose to do so. Furthermore, the “offering” is one of sharing rather than a complete relinquishing of benefit.

On Tuesday morning, my head was filled with worry as I stepped onto my mat. Later that day, I would undergo a mammography-assisted needle biopsy (stereotactic needle biopsy) to determine if the abnormal clustering of micro-calcifications in my right breast were cancerous or of any other worrisome finding. While the probability of cancer was 20%, I was not reassured. My mind had already leaped to preparing for the worse — with the positive aspect lying in the fact that most of these cases are early stage (0 stage) cancer with a very good survival rate. If cancer, treatment would likely consist of a mastectomy and radiation. As you may imagine, I had not been sleeping well since being told that the radiologist reading my serial mammograms recommended a biopsy be scheduled as soon as possible.

I brought my hands to prayer and, instead of the opening chant, I simply began praying that  I would be able to face both the procedure and the outcome with a clear, focused, and positive mindset and be able to utilize the abilities I have gained from my daily practice to do so. I thought about a few women who’s battle with cancer had not been going smoothly. Then, I thought about the women who were sitting with the same unknown (outcome-yet-to-be-determined) as me. I prayed for them as well. Then, before I began the first sun salutation, I dedicated my practice these women — praying that whatever benefits I gained would also be shared with them.

Then, I began my practice…I sensed that today’s practice needed to require an all-in sort of effort. For this reason, I opted to go straight from the standing series to my Second Series (intermediate) practice. The Intermediate Series is known for its beneficial nervous system cleansing. Although the deep backbends, such as kapotasana, are often called out as the prime suspects, practitioners will encounter what can be described as an energetic and emotional rollercoaster as new poses are added to their practice. I have many relatively newer poses which I am currently struggling with, in addition to the usual suspects (kapotasana, in particular).

With the intention to benefit others, I gave my practice my full attention and most dedicated effort. I worked to keep my breath steady and married to the movements so as to calm my nervous system as the practice worked its magic. The ungluing of stagnant energy and breaking (or at least pointing out) my deeply-ingrained patterns that no longer serve me is just one of the miraculous processes that happens on my mat. It’s not always pretty and is certainly not easy, but it well worth the effort. I kept these thoughts in the back of my mind (a 2nd dristhi of sorts) as I moved through my practice.

When I arrived at kapotasana, my teacher came over and sat on the mat behind me. From kneeling, I raised my arms overhead with the inhale then, on the exhale, arched my back until my teacher’s knees came into view. Placing my hands onto her knees, I could feel my low back begin tightening. I pushed my hips forward and visualized my breath filling my lungs and energizing my whole body. The pressure melted from my back, and I went a little deeper into the pose by walking my hands down from my teacher’s bent knees to her shins. The process repeated itself but, instead of me moving my hands, I kept my hands on her shins as she straightened her legs (my hands coming closer to my feet). Although longer than my usual meeting with kapo, the process was over in no time. I came out of the pose feeling like I had a little more to offer up. So I repeated the pose on my own; my gift to those women who desperately need some equanimity as their body attempts to circulate healing energy through their every cell, melting away the discomfort and/or dis-ease.

By the time I was rolling up my mat, I was satisfied that I had offered up by very best effort. It felt good and hoped that indeed someone else would benefit. I had no idea just how much I would need to call on that strength and stillness for my own benefit.

The results came back as benign.  I am so grateful and blessed. Do your health screening, folks?  It’s really important!

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