From the confines of a hospital bed, what options do you have to move around? Wires, tubes, sheets, and monitors all conspire to keep the body still and safe, but the inactivity can be agonizing. Many of us take our freedom of motion for granted, and the painful lack only hits home when we are seriously ill or injured and unable to move.
Artist Yuko Kodama found herself in this predicament when she learned she had a rare and aggressive form of cancer in her mouth. The latest episode of The Chopra Well show, Urban Yogis, features Yuko’s story and the role yoga played her recovery. A yogini for over sixteen years, Yuko lay in her hospital bed, desperate to move and stretch her body. In an amazing moment of inspiration, Yuko closed her eyes and began doing her Ashtanga yoga practice in her head. “This is great – I don’t even need a body to do yoga!”
In addition to her other treatments, this imagined yoga practice helped Yuko develop the strength and confidence needed to fight her illness. Back to her paintings, her family, and her regular Ashtanga practice now, Yuko is almost in full remission from the cancer. She credits her yoga practice for why she’s alive today!
Yoga is certainly a physical practice and can be a great way to work on strength and flexibility. But many seasoned yogis and instructors will tell you that breathing and mindfulness are at the heart of the practice. You can deepen your breath, quiet your thoughts, and imagine a vinyasa sequence in your mind’s eye, and the effect might be quite similar to if you were sweating it out on the mat.
So next time you’re sick in bed, cramped in a tiny airplane seat, or feeling antsy on the subway, try Yuko’s method. You may feel stuck and anxious to move, but with a healthy imagination, there is no limit to what you can do.
Read last week’s story about New York teenagers practicing yoga to overcome violence and tragedy.
Subscribe to The Chopra Well and stay tuned for our upcoming interview with Russell Brand on yoga and overcoming addiction.