Silver Linings, Recollections, and Lessons from my Gut

I have a confession. I wouldn’t normally bring it up except, I think it is pertinent. I had a rocky start to one of my morning classes this week. I haven’t been feeling all that well since I got my wisdom teeth out (remember my deep gratitude to my absent molars?). It’s not my teeth that have been hurting me, but rather, my gut has been thrown completely out of balance by the whole event. Having a flippant digestive track has been hard for me to stomach considering I’m so passionate about the benefits of yoga for digestive health.
I made it through class without a problem. It just took a little bit of concentration and deep breath to get through it. My students are great and kept moving, kept breathing. Afterwards a fellow teacher, who happened to be taking the class and noticed before class that I was unwell, asked me what was going on. I told her the truth…ever since I had my wisdom teeth out and some preventative meds they asked me to take, I’ve felt like crap.
I mention this because as I was talking to her I could hear a story that I was telling myself. It goes something like this….
“Hey lady, who do you think you are teaching other people about being good to your gut when you are having a hard time yourself?! You don’t know what you are talking about and shouldn’t share anything you’ve learned. Actually, what have you learned anyways? Maybe you should reconsider this whole teaching thing after all!”

Back to reality here…I heard that story starting to come up and in an instant, as I was talking to my colleague I realized this truth…without a solid yoga practice I have no clue where I’d be on my road to good digestive health, but I’m pretty sure my gut would be a colossal mess!
I recall a visit to Memorial Sloan Kettering with mom about eight years ago. Her colon cancer was in remission and we were there for a check up. It was my first time attending with my mom and I was happy to support her through the intense schedule of doctor’s appointments and tests. My mom really loved her doctors there. She was over the moon about them. They did their best to keep her alive for so long after her diagnosis. I’m grateful that they did. 

I find myself standing in one of the examination rooms. The doctor has come in and he’s ready to perform yet another test on my mom. She’s excited to introduce me to him. He was nice, cordial and professional. I suppose he was interested in our family medical history, so he asked me about my condition. I told him about my ulcerative colitis. He asked me how long? I said ten years. He looked me dead in the eye and said “you should probably just get your colon removed.” 
Okay, what? Back up. Are you kidding me? You have never met me nor examined me and you’re going to me that I should get my colon removed? Like it’s no big deal? You’ve got to be kidding me! It’s bad enough that I was scared out of my mind of developing colon cancer like my mom, but to blatantly tell me in a casual conversation that the only alternative was major surgery seemed just bonkers. Flabbergasted does not even begin to describe how I felt that day. 
After my initial shock subsided, I found myself holding onto anger about the conversation. After leaving the hospital in New York, I headed home to fervently throw myself into my yoga practice. I felt better than I had in years. I took my 200 hour teacher training certification and went deeper, learning more about pranayama, asana, meditation. It all made so much sense to me and it made me feel better. I kept practicing and peeling back the layers, learning more, sensing more, finding new ways to understand me. I don’t believe having one’s colon removed is an inherently bad decision and in some cases, it’s downright necessary. However for me, I  take issue with it being the first suggested solution. I’m not ready for that. Its a difficult choice that must be carefully considered along with all your personal medical facts. 
I imagine that if I never had a yoga practice to rely on, I probably wouldn’t have a colon any longer. With a strong yoga practice I have been able to take the slow road and learn how to be good to myself. I’ve figured out how to calm some of the monkeys in my mind. I’ve learned how to nurture and nourish myself properly, both physically and spiritually. All of these things combined have led to a combined satisfied state of being good to my gut. 
So when I looked at my friend and started berating myself for some audacious notion that I shouldn’t continue teaching about Yoga for Digestive Health, I stopped. Just because it’s been a few rough weeks, doesn’t mean it will always be that way. There’s a silver lining here and a lesson that I’m happy to share with anyone who wants to learn all about it. In fact, I think it’s all a part of the master plan. There’s a fire in my belly that says I can’t stop learning or teaching yoga or about digestive health. It’s what I have to do. 


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