Labor Day. Eight and a half years ago. Emily's first birthday. We threw a birthday party for her and invited all our neighbors. It was a beautiful Indian-summer's day. Our neighbors were a fun party bunch. We were the new young couple on the block. Everyone was having a great time. The table was heaving with delicious goodies, wine was flowing, people were laughing, Emily performed beautifully taking her first steps there and then in front of the cooing fans.
For a few wonderful hours, I forgot all about the horrors of the past two weeks, the MRIs, optic tests, spinal tap, three days of intravenous steroid treatment. Pushed aside the pain, the struggle, trauma, hallucinations, vomiting, shock, anxiety and fear. In the merriment of the party, I'd forgotten it all.
I finished hospital treatment on Wednesday. Four days later, it was Emily's party. I was so happy to have my friends over. It was perfect.
We sang Happy Birthday to Emily. More wine flowed. I wasn't drinking. One of my neighbors took my arm and gently pulled me to one side. "Jane," she said, in a quiet voice, "are you okay? I noticed your arm. Is there anything you need to talk about?" Silence. "Are you doing drugs?"
I was stunned.
I had no idea what she was talking about.
She looked at my arm. I followed her gaze. It landed on a huge black bruise. I was black and blue. There were needle marks all over my arm where the nurses had tried to get the needles in. My veins had collapsed. They'd injected the drugs into my tissue for one of the three days.
I was so out of it I hadn't even thought about covering up my arms. It hadn't crossed my mind. It was the middle of summer. I was wearing a tank top. I saw myself through her eyes. I was thin, tired, pale. I looked like a heroin addict.
"Oh, no." I told her. "I'm sorry. I've just been in for a lot of tests. I've been diagnosed with MS."
She cried. There and then, in the middle of Emily's party. My few hours of forgetting were over.
In yoga we sometimes find ourselves faced with practicing poses that bring up emotions such as fear and anxiety. The key to staying in the practice is to breathe our way through them, bringing peace and relaxation into our bodies despite what our emotions are telling us. When we can do this in class or at our home practice, we can begin bringing this calmness into the world with us. This is when we begin living our practice.
EXERCISE: PIGEON POSE
From downward facing dog bring the right leg up into a downward dog split, bend the right knee and swing the leg forward, bringing the right knee outside the right hand and release the left leg to the floor.
Square off the hips (place a bolster or folded blanket under the right buttock if nec). Bring the torso down into a forward bend in front. Remain here for several minutes, breathing deeply into the right thigh and buttock. If you feel pressure in your right knee, press your hands into the ground and take some of the pressure off the knee. If you feel pain in the knee, come out of the pose.
Breathe. Breathe. Breathe.
This is an intense pose. Chances are some emotions will arise. Breathe through them. Inhale the word 'peace' or 'relax' or something that resonates to you and consciously exhale the struggle.