Deven Sisler is a Wanderlust presenter. Join her and other luminaries at an event this year! Find out more about festivals | Find out more about 108s
After suffering two miscarriages and enduring eight weeks of chemotherapy to treat a precancerous condition, my life, my body, and my asana practiced changed. My attitude was that if I could get through to the other side, I’d be able to start my life again. I had no idea that I would be knocked down so many times in so many different ways, though hope that tomorrow would be better buoyed me. As events got more and more difficult, I eventually broke down and broke through to a new perspective.
One in four women may experience a miscarriage, and this statistic may, in reality, be higher. At nine weeks I suffered a natural miscarriage. It was comforting to personally know many women who have endured this pain—their understanding alleviated any sense of shame or embarrassment around the loss. I’m grateful to have a strong support network including my partner, close family, and compassionate friends. This first loss was difficult emotionally, but it was the brain fog, fatigue, physical pain, weight gain, and recovery that were harder to bear.
Within a few months I was pregnant again. This time I was severely more nauseated and fatigued. I hoped this meant it was real and I would offer thanks every time I threw up due to morning sickness. I could barely get up each morning and make it to the couch—there was little energy for anything else. We discovered during our first prenatal appointment that the pregnancy was non-viable. Within a few days and many tests later we learned that this was an abnormal, molar pregnancy (there was no fetus in this case) and it would have killed me without medical intervention. Before the procedure I was told I may need a blood transfusion or two during the surgery, and it was possible that they would need to remove my uterus in order to save my life.
I am grateful that all went well and I did not receive a hysterectomy that day. Weeks of recovery, postpartum depression and more recovery followed.
The bombshell came when I was then diagnosed with a gestation-related precancerous disorder requiring eight weeks of chemotherapy. I was dragged back into a rip current of fatigue and nausea.
Finding Strength on the Mat
During this year, I committed and recommitted to my physical practice in ever-evolving ways. I was scared to go back to class in a studio, as I doubted my own strength and abilities. My daily practice had become a mix of breathwork, meditation, Yoga Nidra, and a few restorative poses (described below). During a good week, I could make it to a yin class. One particular Monday, I was feeling better than normal, and my weekly chemo shot was scheduled for late in the day. I took the chance and stepped into a Vinyasa class with a trusted teacher. I spent more time in child’s pose when I needed and my eyes welled with tears that the practice felt good, that my body felt stronger than expected.
Life will always have obstacles. We will experience loss and pain. Whether this is physical trauma or the death of a loved one, we need strategies. Following are poses that can help with healing, whether it be emotional or physical. Allow the poses to seep in, support you, and invite a sense of relaxation. Make space for yourself to be angry, grieve, or whatever you need and invoke a personal asana practice that restores a sense of equilibrium. Focus your thoughts on that which supports you toward relaxing and give yourself space for healing to occur.
Take a wide-kneed stance to create more space for your breathing. Allow your attention to draw inward on your breath, counting to five as the inhale comes in and counting to five as the exhale leaves you. Focus on the exhalation and complete acceptance for whatever emotions come up. Whatever you are feeling is OK. This is a safe space to be with yourself.
Supta Baddha Konasana—Reclining Bound Angle
Consciously choose to close your eyes, or keep them open depending on which is more relaxing. Let go of expectation and judgement. Be in this moment letting your breath and your feelings flow. As you inhale, focus on the breath filling into your upper, middle, then lower lungs. Repeat this breath 5–10 times, then return to your normal breathing cycle.
Supta Chandrasana—Supine Crescent Moon
As you reach your hands overhead, let your right fingers and toes creep towards each other as the hips stay in place. Feel the opening of the left side of your body, be energized by the full stretch, then back off 5 percent so you can breathe into the side of your lungs fully. Imagine any stagnant energy leaving your body as you exhale.
Viparti Karani—Legs Up the Wall Pose
Acknowledgement and gratitude for the most simple aspects of life can support a healing journey immensely. Notice the floor and earth beneath you, supporting your relaxation. Notice the quality of the wall that supports your legs. Visualize three more specific things that you are grateful for. Then stay here for 3–5 minutes surrendering to gravity.
The purpose of this pose is complete surrender, let go of attention to the breath. If your thoughts are too overwhelming, then find a guided meditation or guided yoga nidra to help focus on relaxation. Make yourself as comfortable as possible and lie here for 10 minutes to allow the nervous system and body to reset.
A senior certified AcroYoga teacher Deven is known for her joyful, playful approach to partnership and collaboration, and her articulate teaching. An E-RYT 200 and CRYT yoga teacher, she has trained with international master teachers for the past 12 years in yoga, thai massage, and acrobatics. An outdoor enthusiast, she weaves her experience and on and off the mat into creative, relaxing and inspiring classes for adults, children and families. Her perspective through the lens of yoga and acrobatics heightens kinesthetic and proprioceptive awareness; it cultivates trust, communication and community building. She offers a holistic approach to exploring biomechanics and the subtle body through movement, sound and her training in Body-Mind Centering.