Monday, November 3, 2014

Supporting Your Health Habit

He reminded me of Rumplestiltskin, the antagonist from one of the Brothers Grimm tales. This was not the typical image of a healer, even if my teacher had prefaced our introduction by calling him a true “Santa Fe character”, and something of a shamanic cowboy. Underneath all the gruffness, I was honored to catch a glimpse of the real character of this ageless man, on a very special afternoon in New Mexico.

Don Smith entered the yoga studio wearing a cowboy hat that he claimed was 110 years old and began laying out pictures and books on the massage table. He spoke passionately about the history of osteopathy, and when he stomped around the table to emphasize his distaste for the board of osteopathic examiners, the image of grumpy little man came to mind. What he said and did after that is what will stay with me.

Tree sap: another divine fluid
photo by Janitors
“Your body has a health habit,” he told us all, and explained that it was our responsibility to align the body so that it can do what it naturally does: heal.

When I teach yoga for cancer survivorship, I cringe anytime someone suggests that yoga “cures” cancer. I believe that yoga supports our body’s innate ability to address cancer, which is why hearing Don's view struck a chord with me; yoga practices for cancer survivorship move bones, blood and lymph, and help retrain strain patterns to reduce barriers and improve circulation.

I asked Don his impressions of cancer. The picture he painted for me has haunted me ever since.

“You know that island of plastic pollution that’s floating in the ocean? That’s a tumor on a global scale.”

He went on to say that the fluids are the key to treating humans on a systemic level, and that even the nerves are supported by fluids.

I had often been told that one of the lymphatic system's main functions was to act as a sewer system, to remove the interstitial fluid that cannot be reabsorbed and carry it back towards the heart. At the mention of this, Don passionately disagrees with this view. He believes that the lymph that moves through the lymphatic system is a divine fluid... You find a way to move it, working with the trauma of the body, not against it, and that's how you support your body's habit to heal.

Upcoming Workshop

This Saturday, November 8, I'll be leading a workshop that shares how to support your body's habit to heal after a cancer diagnosis. This 2-hour event will include 30 minutes of lecture, followed by 90 minutes of simple daily practices, and is open to cancer patients, survivors, caregivers and professionals working with people with cancer. Here are the details - feel free to share, and I hope to see some of you there!

Yoga for Cancer Survivorship Workshop
Sat, Nov 8 1:30-3:30pm, $35

2995 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto, 650-320-YOGA (9262)