Life choices | The Leap Year | Yoga

Wellbeing magazine story

For those of you who haven’t had a chance to get a copy of this month’s Wellbeing magazine, look no further, I have included it in this week’s blog!

I also want to say a big thank you to everyone who has sent me messages of support, encouragement and love. I am so very grateful to you all. (I am also loving the photos I have been sent with the copies you have purchased, thank you Linda for this one).

Here you go…enjoy (and grab a copy if you can, there are loads of other inspiring stories inside).

“You have breast cancer”

No one ever wants to hear those words, but I did and it changed my life.

Up until that day, I had never thought about cancer, ever. Who would? I was forty seven years old, breast cancer was something that other people got, not me.

My life changed in an instant.

That night I went to bed and cried, cried at the injustice of it all, what was I going to do? Life as I knew it was gone, I had crossed the threshold into a life I didn’t want and a world I knew nothing about.

I didn’t cope at all in those first few weeks. I was numb. The relentlessness of the medical appointments was overwhelming and I didn’t understand a word of what they were telling me. All I knew was that I had cancer and it could kill me.

A chance encounter with a neighbour on the eve of starting chemotherapy proved to be the change in direction I desperately needed. She suggested I start yoga. Yoga?

Yoga was the furthest thing from my mind at this point, but considering my brain was rampant with the most unhelpful and fearful thoughts, I thought maybe it would help.

I had to do something. I had become another person. I was angry, I was sad, and for all intents and purposes I was living inside my head, a life only just holding it together. I hated my life, I hated the fact I had cancer, I couldn’t face the next twelve months of treatment, it was too much to bear. I didn’t ask for help, I wanted so bad to sort it out myself because I knew somewhere deep down inside I had in in me, I had done it before. That warrior woman was somewhere; I just had to find her.

Those first few sessions of yoga made me feel sick, nauseous, and were far from calming my mind. In fact, I couldn’t even do the breathing exercises. Breathing, for goodness sake! I couldn’t even breathe properly!

And, as for downward-facing dog, you had to be joking. My spindly little arms could not hold my body up. I was thinking, this is not for me, what is this yoga stuff? All I felt like doing was vomiting.

The only thing that kept me going back was my yoga teacher. She honestly looked like she had a halo above her head—an aura of sorts. I don’t know what you call it but I wanted to be like that. She was serene, calm, and had a wicked sense of humour. When your yoga class music is Africa by Toto, you have to be on to something good.

I started thinking maybe this yoga stuff could be alright if I stuck it out. I had nothing else on the horizon other than looking down the barrel of twelve months of cancer treatment; anything had to be better than nothing. I persevered through another four weeks of classes until one day it just came to me. I could do it; it was really making me feel better, a lot better.

I strangely became quickly addicted to it. I signed up for workshops, added classes, and roped my husband in. I declared that, “Yoga has changed my life.” And it has, in more ways than one.

Yoga was my saviour in those few months of chemotherapy treatment, and I started to look forward to my classes more than ever. I felt the attraction to the ancient practice and I knew it was changing my perception, my mind, and my sense of calmness.

Yoga is a very old practice, as a westerner I had very little knowledge of these ancient practices. I knew few people who practiced yoga and no one really seemed to talk about it. Well, no one I knew. My sister was a convert but because I wasn’t in that “space” I never asked her about why she did it. I had a new purpose, my mind was starting to turn and I could feel the presence of something bigger than me.

There is something very addictive about yoga; I would never have believed it. I started to research why it made me feel better. I had such a sense of wellness and peace when I finished class, I couldn’t understand how a few pretzel poses could make so much difference to how I was feeling. It was the only exercise I did though my treatment other than walking.

My life had been put on hold during cancer treatment but during this year I also found my blueprint; my inner being and I began living the life that I deserved. Through my continued practice of yoga, I have found what I truly needed. Yoga allows me to take some quiet time to reflect not only upon my day but all that I have to be grateful for. Practicing yoga has taught me to be still, to listen and understand my body, to understand my mental chatter and how to find my breath and be present.

Eighteen months after my diagnosis, I published a book called “The Leap Year” it is part memoir about my own cancer story and my love affair with yoga and part travel journal about trekking Tuscany with twenty other women. I will never forget the week that I spent with my fellow trekkers, it was inspiring to be with people who could make me laugh, cry and above all to teach me to welcome change and do what makes me deeply happy.

Big Love Jane x

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