I know I haven’t mentioned this before, but I have a chronic lung disorder. I’ve had it since my 20’s and it is just a part of my life. I never smoked, but due to growing up with a mom who was a pack a day smoker, I was exposed to excessive second-hand smoke. I had chronic bronchitis and pneumonia as a kid which caused so much scar tissue in my lungs that I had to have half of one of my lungs surgically removed when I was 38. I now have chronic bronchiectasis, which is basically a fancy word for “crap for lungs.”
I usually manage fine with my inhalers, nebulizer and airway clearing device so that I can be the athletic person that I am and live my life with gratitude and gusto, but the last month has been challenging, especially during yoga practice.
Yoga requires and incorporates at its very basic core, breath. This makes it the perfect practice for me to keep my lungs open, and working hard and strong. The last month I have been struggling to draw full breaths and feel my lungs filling up during class. I keep my inhaler in my bag, but never have had to use it while on my mat in class, but now I feel I should have it next to me. There has been a lot of pollen in the air and I am telling myself that once the air quality improves, so will my lung functioning.
I saw my pulmonary doc yesterday and he gave me a stronger inhaler, encouraged me to keep exercising but he wants to do a CAT scan of my lungs to see if there are any changes. I am telling myself I am not worried, but I guess if I am writing about it then truth be told.
I know I can always tone down my practice if I have to. I’ve been focusing on practicing challenging poses, pushing my body, building strength and balance, but here I am again with yoga speaking to me about where I need to put my attention.
Balance in a pose or balance in my health? Strength in my muscles or strength in my lungs? Push myself in a fast paced challenging flow class, or take a more gentle approach and flow with ease and breathe. I am answering these questions for myself as I write. I also know that this might be a temporary setback, but it is pushing me to pay attention and listen to my body in a different way. This is a good process.
Life with a chronic illness is challenging but do-able. I am strong and positive and believe in myself, and in my bodies ability to heal. Taking it one breath at a time has new meaning when taking a breath is a challenge, but I’ve got this. Breath is precious and breath is life. Breathe.
perfect practice for me as the deep steady breathing during flow keeps my lungs opened
working and strengthening.