The yoga instructor started the practice with a guided meditation. Close your eyes, she said, and imagine a warm pool of water at the center of your brain. Then she said, smile on the inside at all the cells in your body and feel the warmth flow from that pool of water.

Smile on the inside. Smile behind your eyes. At yourself. She could have said, be kind to yourself. Which might have engendered resistance, at least in me. All that schmaltzy, touchy-feely, new agey crap. But instead she said, smile on the inside. Who can resist a smile? And I did smile. That smile rose to the surface, like a air ring from the deepest ocean mammal. My eyes were closed so there was no way to know if others in the class also smiled but it shifted everything for me this morning.

Later in the practice, I reached a difficult asana. Trying to breathe in the folded child’s pose, I felt the tears crest. This happens in class for me. I cry. I weep. Barriers come down, breath moves through and the emotions bound in the tissues flow out. And I had an instant awareness of being THANKFUL for my auto-immune condition. I saw in that moment that my body (and spirit) could have easily surrendered to all the stress over the years and faltered, leading to me getting some horrible cancer. Instead, my body (and spirit) stood strong and fiercely resisted. Yes, it put my immune system into hyper-drive, churning out auto-antibodies to only God knows what but the message I got today during practice was that I will not break, I will not surrender, I will not quit. My spirit is strong, fiercely and fearfully made. I defend and protect myself vigorously.  And while I (maybe) have had a disproportionate response to many years of stress and adversity, I will not be beaten.

It was a good practice today. I am thankful. I am strong. I am grounded. And…I can change. Through the practice, I can now balance. I can fold. As tight as my ligaments get and as stiff as my joints might be at the start, after 90 minutes, they are better. My immune system will restore to a more balanced position. I will learn and restore and renew. Every single cell in my body, every blood cell, skin cell, the cells in all my organs and skeleton will all renew and be replaced. I am dynamic. I am alive.

I am smiling.

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