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Perhaps it has something to do with my age. Or maybe it’s because I’ve been through a lot with breast cancer. Whatever the reason, I’ve discovered that yoga really speaks to me on a physical, mental and spiritual level. I’ve been taking at least two, sometimes three classes a week for several months now, which when I was younger would have meant I could bend like Gumby (or maybe even Gandhi) – but in my current body it just means I say ouch a lot when I’m doing things like getting out of bed or brushing my teeth! In fact, I think I even said ouch just now, when I began typing this story.
I am blessed to have found an amazing yoga instructor, who at nearly 70 years of age is able to pretty much turn into a human pretzel in a moment’s notice. I feel compelled to compete (which is absolutely not what yoga is about) simply because I can’t believe with more than 10 years on me, she is actually light years ahead in terms of overall fitness.
It doesn’t stop with the instructor – many of the men and women in my classes have been practicing yoga for years, so it’s no wonder they too are much more limber. They also seem to have a penchant for being able to wear form fitting, stylish clothing that makes them look just swell when they have their feet wrapped around their heads, arms wrapped around their torsos, or hands firmly touching toes.
I want to look like that, but I’m ashamed to admit it, after all I’ve been through (and all I should have learned from it) I HATE how my upper arms look. I used to have amazing biceps, triceps – well any sort of cep you can think of. I was actually vain about how they looked, which perhaps has something to do with my current distress.
When I had my first surgery, it was before sentinel node became all the rage, so I had 21 lymph nodes removed. Not only did it feel awful – it left a crater the size of New Jersey under my right arm. Although I recovered, I never did address the fact that my muscles in that area were going to need a lot of help if they were ever going to regain even a semblance of their former splendor. As a result, I now have enough flab on my upper arm to give a flying squirrel a run for his money (that is if I could haul my sorry self high enough up a tree to get a good head start!)
I don’t like it when I’m self conscious because it really does make me feel like I’m not paying attention to the much bigger picture. But in the real world, sometimes it’s hard not to be. I also hate making excuses for why I won’t wear sleeveless tops, because I don’t want anyone to feel sorry for me… unless it’s a plastic surgeon who says I can have free surgery and it’s sure to fix the problem forever!
After some serious introspection, I decided perhaps it was time for me to venture out of my comfort zone to see if maybe, just maybe, I could find an outfit that allows me to feel comfortable both physically and well, I guess you would call it emotionally.
Once I got over the sticker shock, I began trying on different types of tops and pants. The pants were a snap. I found several pair that felt good and looked fine too. Then it was on to the tops. (Or in my case, off with the tops!) I must have tried on at least 10 different variations. They all looked horrible. To make matters worse, the sales girl was not standing there trying to reassure me that it was all in my mind, which any woman worth her salt knows is a sure sign of trouble.
Eventually I came to the harsh realization that my arms will probably never look the way I want them to. I also tried to believe that even if I hadn’t had breast cancer and the resulting surgeries; my arms would have aged and might not be as delightful as I remember them.
I have, however, determined that I will do everything in my power to tone them up and in those moments when I feel embarrassed or self conscious, I will simply create a new yoga pose by flapping them and flying away!