Once per month weSPARK offers a FREE 90 minute Yin Yoga workshop for cancer patients, survivors and their caregivers. weSPARK is conveniently located on Ventura Boulevard in Sherman Oaks and offers a variety of free programming to alleviate the stress associated with a cancer diagnosis.
Yin Yoga focuses on the connective tissue in the body. This practice enhances the flow of energy in the tissues around the joints. As a community we come together and work on our emotional ‘connective tissue’ through this practice as well.
Guests entered a candlelit space and enjoyed the music of Nahko and Medicine For The People as we began our workshop. As the music filled the air, each guest was offered doTERRA essential oils to warm in their palms by rubbing their hands together and inhaling deeply. This subtle reminder to focus on the breath throughout the practice is very soothing.
The theme of our January workshop was “rebirth.”
This theme was incorporated into our workshop with the phrase “the death of the person you used to be will lead to the birth of the person you are meant to be.”
We went around the room and introduced ourselves by first name and shared one thing we wanted to let go of this evening to allow for a greater connection between the body, mind and spirit. Our slow moving practice provided the time and space for mindfulness in movement and breath.
We read from Nadia Bolz-Weber’s amazing book “Accidental Saints”:
That’s the thing about tombs. Sometimes we don’t even know we are in them, until the light breaks from on high. But I know we all have them. I wonder what it is for you. Is there something buried? Thought to be dead? Something that you have left for dead? What in your life might have been in such darkness that any kind of dawn would feel sudden and unexpected causing you to shield your eyes?
Sometimes tombs are about how we treat things in our life as though they represent the end. This relationship is over. This life of faith has ended. That time of happiness will never return. There’s a big stone covering that thing I used to feel or I used to love or I used to be and anyway, it’s started to smell of rot. That part of me is totally dead, period. End of sentence. But as great African American preachers often say –
“where we put a period….God puts a comma”.
Having a God of resurrection means that the story is seldom over when we think it is. Don’t assume you already know how the story goes. Be surprised. Surprised by empty tombs, surprised by the thing you never saw coming. Surprised by how you can have something or someone taken from you which you thought you couldn’t live without and then finding yourself living without them anyway, surprised by sobriety, and that people can love you. Surprised that you tear up when receiving Grace and that oh my gosh, you aren’t afraid of that one thing you used to be and surprised that maybe you can actually have a relationship with your body that is not adversarial anymore and surprised that a relationship you thought was dead is not and that maybe everyone doesn’t hate you after all. Surprised, as we say, at empty tombs and the suddenness of dawn.
After a lengthy warm-up period, guests reclined in supine baddha konasana using rolled up blankets and blocks to support their legs. While in this long-held posture intense emotions and feelings of vulnerability rose up. Instead of moving out of discomfort, guests were encouraged to explore these feelings with stillness, breath and compassion.
We read a short poem by Beau Taplin:
Listen to me, your body is not a temple. Temples can be destroyed and desecrated. Your body is a forest—thick canopies of maple trees and sweet scented wildflowers sprouting in the underwood. You will grow back, over and over, no matter how badly you are devastated.
During savasana I walked around to each guest making minor adjustments and providing delicate massages to the head and neck area. As guests returned to their bodies we read from Mark Nepo:
When in the midst of great change, it is helpful to remember how a chick is born. From the view of the chick, it is a terrifying struggle. Confined and curled in a dark shell, half-formed, the chick eats all its food and stretches to the contours of its shell. It begins to feel hungry and cramped. Eventually the chick begins to starve and feels suffocated by the ever-shrinking space of its world.
Finally, its own growth begins to crack the shell, and the world as the chick knows it is coming to an end. Its sky is falling. As the chick wriggles through the cracks, it begins to eat its shell. In that moment – growing but fragile, starving and cramped, its world breaking – the chick must feel like it is dying. Yet once everything it has relied on falls away, the chick is born. It doesn’t die, but falls into the world.
The lesson is profound. Transformation always involves the falling away of things we have relied on, and we are left with a feeling that the world as we know it is coming to an end, because it is.
Yet the chick offers us the wisdom that the way to be born while still alive is to eat our own shell. When faced with great change – in self, in relationship, in our sense of calling – we somehow must take in all that has enclosed us, nurtured us, so when the new life is upon us, the old is within us.
We closed our workshop by joining our voices in the metta prayer, sending loving kindness to one another and the world. The light in me sees, recognizes, admires, adores and believes in the light I have always seen in you.
weSPARK offers completely FREE programs, workshops, classes and individual therapies to cancer patients, survivors and their loved ones. Remember to take a look at our monthly program schedule for more information about the services we offer.
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