Today’s post is the last in our Yoga Straight Talk series – and it takes a bit of a different spin. Grace Quantock, 90 Days of Yoga alum and wellness writer and speaker, shares a glimpse into how yoga has been a refuge for her when dealing with the ongoing struggle of chronic illness. Her reflections are spot-on for all of us:
Yoga welcomes us home to our bodies.
One last note – Some of you have been asking:
Can I do 90 Days of Yoga if I haven’t taken your 30 Days of Yoga course?
If you are familiar with the basics of yoga, and confident with basic online technology (downloading files etc) then I’m happy to make an exception for you, since this is the last time we’ll be offering 90 Days of Yoga. If you want to check that you’ll be comfortable and confident in the course, feel free to email us your questions at email@example.com.
Registration closes tomorrow for 90 Days of Yoga. Join me.
Grace Quantock is a wellness provocateur, writer, speaker and founder of The Phoenix Fire Academy and Healing Boxes CIC. She lives in Wales, UK and loves reading, gardening and yoga on early mornings. Read more at www.gracequantock.com | www.healing-boxes.com and follow Grace on Twitter.
Before we get to Grace’s post, let’s hear her voice and best advice for the days you don’t feel like getting on the mat.
Yoga: My Thread To Follow, Home and Beyond
My first experience with yoga was at camp. We all crept out before sunrise, teenagers scurrying through dew-wet grass into a meadow. There was darkness and silence and the sky had that silent grandeur of a cathedral dome, still shot through with starlight.
It was easy to move that day, bending and stretching into the dawn. I had no way of knowing, that for every day thereafter, yoga – indeed any movement at all – would become increasingly difficult.
I became very sick, at that camp. At 18, a perfect storm of chronic illnesses would begin to render my body, and its abilities, near unrecognizable as the years went by. And, although I left my camping experience with a fever in my bones, and a body ache that would stretch over a decade, I also carried away the tool that would help me live through it: yoga.
The images of yoga being only for “bendy” people, or those who have perfect “yoga bodies” are pervasive ones. I no longer have a “typical yoga body”; indeed, my body seemed, for many years, like a vehicle that couldn’t do much at all. And yet, here I am, a yogi, now, in my own right.
I became very ill, in that camp, when I was 18. If you struggle with yoga, if you can’t sit cross-legged, or bend over, or if you click and pop and crackle as you stretch, take heart! I couldn’t do these things either. Nor could I sit up on my own, lift my arms, move my legs or even scratch my nose alone. But, I could still do yoga. And you can too.
It’s the beauty and essence of what yoga is: something for everyone, of every ability.
I had a profound realisation, bed bound and unable to move unassisted: yoga is much more than the asanas. It can be practiced with intention, by lovingly meeting the body right where it is – a true gift. I used (and still use) yoga to celebrate my aliveness, my breathing, my absolute beauty and work, even with pain that sometimes fills my every cell.
My practice has provided structure and support, no matter how challenging things are. Even when any movement was agonising, I knew I could still get onto the mat and immerse myself in my practice.
Sometimes, the mat was metaphorical. My body often made getting out of bed impossible. But lying down, one leg bent, slightly, in supine tree pose, and visualising a strong, tall tree with every ounce of concentration I had, was equally as powerful. 90 Days of Yoga has practices that welcome all abilities and needs, which allowed me to participate fully.
In the first dark times of my sickness, when days merged into a never-ending stream of medicine and physical torment, straight through to now, as I continue to navigate a life of chronic illness – through all of my struggles, yoga has been there.
Yoga is a beacon. A lifeline. A thread to follow.
Never was this truer than years ago, while on a cabin-in-the-woods retreat. When I say “the woods”, I really mean The. Woods. Hardcore wilderness. Dark. Stormy. Trees falling. The road out was blocked. I was in the bath, soaking in a gorgeous concoction of bubbles and sparkles. And while I lounged there, humming and slathering argon oil onto my hair, a new, great storm rolled in. Suddenly, the lights disappeared. Total. Blackout. No water. No heat. Nothing. I was terrified. And unprepared. Not to mention, cold and nude in the middle of nowhere. I had to sit and wait (a given in my particular situation.)
And that’s when all the hours on my mat came into play. Do what you do every day, my body told me, do what you always do: yoga. And so I did. In a black out, through that storm, I rolled out my mat. And yoga soothed my ragged body and fearful heart with the millennia old movements I have practiced since I was 17.
Yoga is loving, patient.
It has never judged me for poor performance, never abandoned me during difficulty, rather its benefits have only increased, exponentially, over time.
At the beginning of my healing journey, in wanting to build my yoga practice, I boldly declared my intention to leap into 30 minutes of asanas, everyday. It was overreaching on my part, having been reeled into those ubiquitous images of the perfect yogi plastered all over the web and glossy magazines. Given my illness, I couldn’t sit up for 30 minutes, let alone move for such a span. Undeterred, I began with 5 minutes of yoga each day. 5 minutes. Those 5 minutes turned into a freedom and love of movement I’d never anticipated, a love that continues to blossom with every sun salutation and downward facing dog.
Yoga welcomes us home to our bodies.
To tune back in when events or trauma or illness create a disassociation in our physical or emotional selves.
Yoga is a consistent, calming refuge in my life. With Marianne’s teaching, I hold yoga’s practices and principles at all times. And in doing so, all I need is flat piece of earth and my own quiet heart to enjoy a fruitful session. In this way, my own home practice, so pivotal in my own ongoing healing, is possible.
You’ve found your way here. There’s a reason. Perhaps your body is asking for something. Needing, seeking a path of alleviation, health and wellness. If you are investigating, wondering or sitting on the fence, say yes now. Yes, to your future, more abundant self. Yes to a spaciousness of body and soul. Yes, just like I did, in a move that had me engaging with the mat and a stellar community, daily. And, even more significantly, solidified a gentle, love-filled home practice that has served me every day since.