The 8 Limbs of Raja Yoga – Asana

The 8 limbs of Yoga: Yamas, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi, are ordered so as to prepare you for the next limb (well, ‘cept for Samadhi). But I guess in reality, it doesn’t really work that mechanically like a video game…most of us don’t really complete each limb then move on to the next. Most people probably enter through Asana but who knows… As for me, I went to a couple of hatha yoga classes in 2006…then some hot yoga classes… Thus it is always a tad awkward when people ask – how long have you been doing yoga? I assume they mean how long have you been doing yoga poses..to which I have to honestly say: in spasms since 2006. consistently for the last 4 months. But as you all can tell by the first sentence in this post – yoga is not just about asana. For example…the Yamas had been ethical principles that I’ve lived my life by (though I’ve faltered and smack my head on the pavement about 765 times). Not that I knew what the Yamas were till a month ago, but yes, they exist in many permutations that I think most proper/decent folk endeavour to live their lives by. So hey, there are more ways than one to determine how long someone has been yoga-ing.

I digress. I come back to my point. Wait.

Asana. It is only in the last few months that I practiced my asana(s) whole-heartedly. I swear I even felt slightly enlightened once when I was doing it in Kat’s house (I was slightly chemo-drunk and damn tired, but I think it shut off my mind). But here’s the truth, Asana is a cleansing thing right, especially the primary series in Ashtanga Vinyasa? And maybe it’s cos i am of good stock or maybe it’s the asana practice, but my chemotherapy side effects had been for the most part, almost non-existent. I have gone running, cycling, practiced asana intensively for 2 hours daily the last three weeks for the 200 hr training, and well..i think I look pretty damn healthy… Asana detoxifies, purifies and heals the body. And I can attest to that.

As more evidence to my skeptical self, a direct comparison can be made between the first 7 cycles of my chemo regime vs the 8th one. Although I had little side effects during the first 7 cycles, I had severe problems with well..pooping. I was terribly constipated and had to rely on laxatives, which didn’t always work to a tee..thus causing excruciating butt-ripping, bleeding pains. I started my 200 hr training a week before my 8th cycle, and guess what…NO POOP PROBLEMS. No laxatives. And mind you, my body did not get used to the drugs..in fact nurses tell you that these drugs have cumulative effects. Ok..enough with the poop. But hey, as far as detox goes..it’s pretty relevant.

The detoxification is also evident as I no longer felt chemo-drunk…a gross feeling that I struggled with. Imagine trudging through days at a time with a hangover…well..it got better as my asana practice intensified, and practically vanished when I started practicing for 2 hrs every morning for the last three weeks. Almost feels like this drunkedness was purged out of my system.

Do I think this would work for everybody? Probably…but it depends on your individual reactions to chemo and your initial level of well-being before you start chemo. But if you are able, and if you can manage just one activity, get in on some yoga..go to a community centre, check with your cancer support groups, look online…start yoga-ing before you start chemo, or soon after you’ve started if you can. I guarantee you it will help you manage not only your side effects, but any mental or emotional kinks cancer brings on too.