Jul 20, 2017 9:00 AM

Author: Charlotte Bell, Yoga Instructor

hands folded together in namaste symbol

From time to time, HCI invites guest commentary from our community. The views reflected in these commentaries are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the official views of HCI.

The past few years have given me a bit of a wake-up call. My body, which has always been very low maintenance, has been sending me a big message: “Stop taking me for granted!”

Almost two years ago, my left hip was replaced because of hip displaysia. At the end of December I had my right one replaced. I’m now bilaterally bionic. And last summer, I received a diagnosis of early-stage breast cancer. Fortunately it was detected very, very early and didn’t require a lot of radical treatment.

Before these recent events, I took this body for granted. I didn’t visit a doctor for 25 years. Nothing happened to my body that I couldn’t take care of through natural means. But no matter how many years we’ve enjoyed and nurtured good health, our bodies change as we age. They start to wear out and require more TLC.

When we experience illnesses such as cancer, we sometimes develop an antagonistic relationship with our bodies. And yet, these are the times when they most need our care and appreciation. As a yoga teacher at the Linda B. and Robert B. Wiggins Wellness and Integrative Health Center at Huntsman Cancer Institute (HCI), I see my classes as a way to remind cancer survivors, caregivers, and staff that living in our bodies can still be a pleasurable experience. Yoga practice can remind us of the simple pleasure of breathing and relaxing deeply. 

Practice Gratitude

Studies have found that cultivating gratitude actually results in health benefits. A 2015 article in Newsweek cited five proven benefits grateful people enjoy:

  1. More optimism and better health
  2. Improved sleep quality
  3. Increased self-esteem
  4. Increased helpfulness and empathy
  5. Increased resilience

Vietnamese Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh teaches that appreciation of our bodies—not only when we are experiencing pleasant sensations, but at the times when things are just going along as usual—can be a source of happiness. He says, “When we have a toothache, we know that not having a toothache is a wonderful thing. But when we do not have a toothache, we are still not happy. A non-toothache is very pleasant.”

Be Grateful for Your Body

  • Your heart is constantly working to keep you alive, beating 86,400 to 144,000 times per day. Give it some gratitude.
  • Appreciate your senses for letting you enjoy the sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and sensations of our world.
  • Take time to acknowledge all the systems and parts of your body that are working right.
  • If you practice yoga, be grateful that you are able to travel to a class and perform the poses.
  • Give your body a nice, long savasana (a yoga pose where you lie down on your back with your arms and legs spread out) after you practice yoga to give your body time to recover and replenish itself.

Treating your body with kindness and appreciation will not make you immune to all the effects of aging. But it will allow you to live the balance of your life with greater ease and happiness.

Charlotte Bell, Yoga Instructor

Huntsman Cancer Institute Wellness and Integrative Health Center

wellness cancer care integrative medicine

Cancer touches all of us.

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