The Gift of Forward Motion

The other day in yoga class, my teacher Savonn was talking about how February can often feel like a month where we are at loose ends. After the full on attack of the holidays and the hurry up offense of January, February just kind of stares us down. Not yet spring but no longer really winter either. Neither here, nor there. February, you are a difficult month.

To get us out of the rut, Savonn had us all do back bend poses. As she explained it, taking on these postures can force forward movement and increase energy. But these poses can also be pretty hard and down right scary, bringing forth a lot of emotions for people.

Beautiful Savonn.

I was no exception.

Since I had started treatment last Spring I had studiously avoided one pose… the Full Wheel. Essentially this is when you put your hands behind you and pop up into a full backbend.  It had always been a frightening proposition for me. The thought of it instantly brought me back to the awkwardness brought on by gymnastics when I was 10. But it was especially daunting after treatment and surgery this past year… I never thought I’d get up the courage after that.

Emma demonstrating Full Wheel.

Fast forward to about two-thirds through the aforementioned class when Savonn asked me to come to the center of the room to demonstrate. She then proceeded to give me one of the best gifts I have ever received. Savonn carefully stood back to back with me and then raised her arms high overhead, asked me to do the same, and then entwined her hands with mine. As she curled slowly forward into a little ball, I was carefully lowered backwards into a backbend. Then she rolled out of the way and just like that, I was up on my own and breathing into the Full Wheel pose, feeling strong and so satisfied.

As I completed the class that day in final-resting-pose (where you lay flat on your back with deep breathing), tears slowly ran down my cheeks. These were mixed up tears… not sad, but not exactly happy either. It was kind of a relief and release all shaken together. I have learned that the power of touch is very important in healing and, like so many times before in my classes, the gentle, knowing placement of Savonn’s hands had helped soothe wounds that were not just on the outside, but the inside too. You see she knew I was afraid, and stalled, and she found a way to guide me forward and literally be the force to support me.

In one of my favorite new books (“Anti-Cancer” by David Servan-Schreiber), the author concludes with a section called “The Anti-Cancer Body.” He says, “Touching is a very old way of healing.  Touch as a mother would touch a child, because what a mother is saying through her touch is “live.” Something in touching strengthens the will to live in us.  Healing is evoking the will to live in another person.  It comes about not by doing something but by letting another person know that their pain and their suffering and their fear matter.  They really matter.”

Heather's hands lovingly rubbing out the neuropathy.

Looking back on it, I realized something.  Through my weekly acupuncture sessions, my every-Sunday shaitsu session with Kenshi, my stylist Patti’s warm scalp massage when she washed my barely there hair, my friend Heather’s sweet commitment all last summer to catch my hands and rub out the numbness from the chemo or especially, the tender pressure of my yoga teachers’ hands at the end of class, I was steadfastly healing at the hands of another.

The incredibly talented and very kind Dr. Murphy.

Last week I had my last surgery, a final step in the reconstruction, and I am now healing from the work of some of the best hands in town… my super-amazing surgeon Dr. Murphy. I won’t be doing any Full Wheels again for a while. But in the meantime, I’m in full forward motion. And despite the frigid cold this weekend, the earth is also moving forward. Budding daphne, blooming daffodils and chirping birds all seem to be calling me ahead.

Hello spring.  Hello me.

Fitting lyrics from the new Decemberists album...

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  1. Savonn
    Posted February 28, 2011 at 6:05 pm | Permalink

    You are courageous, beautiful and amazing. It was such a powerful moment, on so many levels, to be there with you. A rare, special, rewarding and touching experience. Loved it.

  2. Anna C
    Posted February 28, 2011 at 8:35 am | Permalink

    Happy to hear that your surgeries are complete. Heal well. Xo

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