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The Healing Power of Yoga - Julie Friedeberger (continued)

When I was diagnosed with breast cancer my teacher, Swami Dharmananda Saraswati, told me: 'All that matters now is what you do with this experience, how you use it.'

This was a turning point. I heard her, and turned away from my outrage at the 'unfairness' of having been dealt what felt like a terrible blow. I turned towards the experience itself, knowing that I could and would go through it, and learn whatever it had to teach me. Swami's words gave me hope that the experience of cancer could be transformed into something good and useful, and helped me to trust  that I would eventually be able to use whatever I learned from it in ways that might be helpful to others.

I did learn a great deal from cancer, and though I would not have chosen to have it, I would not want to turn the clock back, because cancer changed my life in more good ways than I can count. And the journey is not over yet; the learning continues to unfold. I would say now, to anyone who has been diagnosed with cancer: do not despair. You may find, as I have, that it opens up new possibilities for you.

Each experience we are given contains an opportunity to learn and to change: it is up to us how we use it.

To each is given a bag of tools
An hour glass, a book of rules
And each must build, ere time has flown
A stumbling block, a stepping stone.

(Source unknown)

Cancer is not necessarily a death sentence, and far from being a disaster, it can be a powerful stimulus to healing, growth, and change It can make us more aware of how precious every moment of life is, and how important it is to use our time well. After all - none of us knows how long we are going to live. And whether we have a week, or a year, or 40 years, what matters is how we use that time.

I'll let Jacki and Alison, two students from my yoga class for people with cancer at the Yoga Therapy Centre, have the last word:

'I have found that the spiritual aspect of yoga practice helps to release the mental burden of living with the fears and uncertainties of cancer which remain even if you are symptom free. It enables you to get your feelings in perspective so that you are not overwhelmed by them and do not become self-absorbed.'

'Not only have I developed my physical and mental strength through the wonderful yoga class of gentle exercises, relaxation and meditation, but I have learnt an alternative and holistic way of dealing with the trauma emanating from having had breast cancer. The practice gives me control, hope, and peace of mind as well as a connectedness, within a very supportive and safe environment. No words can really express what a life-line it has been.'  

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Julie Friedeberger is a trustee of New Approaches to Cancer. She has practised yoga since 1970, and has been teaching since 1987. She holds the teaching diploma of the British Wheel of Yoga, and the teaching and teacher training diplomas of the Dharma Yoga Centre. Her book, 'A Visible Wound: A Healing Journey through Breast Cancer' and her audio cassette tape, 'Breathe and Relax: A Way to Healing' are available from New Approaches to Cancer.

Julie's teaching experience has included work with older people and people with mental health problems, and she has trained yoga teachers for the past ten years. Since 1999 she has given a yoga class for people with cancer at the Yoga Therapy Centre in London, and she teaches on the Yoga and Cancer weeks given at Ickwell Bury by the Yoga for Health Foundation and New Approaches to Cancer. She gives workshops on the theme of yoga for inner strength and healing in times of crisis, and training days for yoga teachers on working with people with cancer.

For information about the Yoga and Cancer class at the Yoga Therapy Centre in London, please ring Julie on 020 8858 7286, or the Yoga Therapy Centre on 020 7419 7195.
 


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